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Starr's Mill 1-1 (5-6 PKs) Flowery Branch

posted May 6, 2017, 11:24 AM by John Bowen   [ updated May 6, 2017, 4:03 PM ]
5A Girls State Quarterfinals
Flowery Branch, GA

Rain, over cast skies and a long ride through traffic couldn't dampen Starr's Mill's spirits but it was a heart breaking evening for the Panthers as they fell in penalties to Flowery Branch Friday night. The team started out strong and seemed to take control 12 minutes in as Meritt Parker spotted the visitors a one goal lead. Sara Biddle found Parker on the left flank and a weaving run between and around defenders ended with a quick left footed shot that flashed into goal at the near post. Starr's Mill possessed well and controlled play to some extent in the first half but the Falcons were in the ascendancy for periods of time as well. The majority of their chances were from distance but they were quick to break into the attack. Sara Biddle, Sky Dedrick, Ashton Nowicki, Lauren Avidano and Kirsten Oates did well in picking up the threats and limited much of the action thrown at keeper Spencer Dawson. Makira Walton and Rachel Davison in the midfield provided a good base to start attacks and the forwards, Parker, Ansley Peurifoy, and Quin Nowicki found moments to get in behind and around the Flowery Branch defense. The injury bug struck again as Walton went down with a hyper extended knee a couple minutes after the goal and kept her out the remainder of the game. Both teams battled physically throughout the match fighting for second balls and flying into tackles. Starr's Mill looked to be well on its way at the half holding the slim 1-0 advantage but feeling confident.

In the second half the Falcons picked up the pace and, with the wind at their backs, found spaces in behind the Panther backline. Dawson was up to the challenge and the defense, led by Ashton Nowicki, managed to put out fires quickly. It was a seemingly hopeful long range shot that turned the game on its ear 18 minutes into the half. The Flowery Branch midfielder cut inside and hit it high to the far post just out of reach to level the score and energize the home side and its fans.  The goal came as the Panthers were struggling to get the ball out of the back and the Falcons were able to pin them back for an extended period. It took a while before Starr's Mill was able to reassert itself but they slowly began to create chances. Parker got around the left side again, cutting the ball back for a finish, but both Dedrick and Peurifoy saw the same opportunity to put each other off. Davison began to range far and wide in the midfield and had a few good shots from distance but straight to the keeper. Overtime beckoned as the clock hit 0:00.

Much like the game, Starr's Mill began with greater authority. Peurifoy, Davison, Dedrick, and Parker all benefited from Ashton Nowicki moving into midfield as the team possessed in the attacking half for close to the full five minutes. Looks at goal again found the keeper but a goal seemed eminent as the team pushed for the game winner. Flowery Branch got a quick counter down the Panther right side but Dawson came up huge with a diving save as she held onto a bullet of a shot from the wing destined for the far post. The teams headed into the second over time and the script flipped again with Starr's Mill struggling to create chances and called for fouls preventing the team from getting out of its half while providing the Falcons looks from service. Again the defense stood tall and the game headed to penalties. Flowery Branch won the coin toss and took first crack hitting their first two shots and saving the Panthers first shot. Down 2-0 Starr's Mill showed their steel as Ashton Nowicki, Meritt Parker, and Ansley Peurifoy scored around a Falcon success and a shot hit over the goal. Both teams began to put the ball into the back of the net with Dawson close on four occasions but unable to keep the ball out. Rachel Davison and Chloe Spradlin scored for the Panthers before Starr's Mill's seventh round shot was saved by the Falcon keeper securing the Final Four slot for Flowery Branch.

The match leaves the Panther record level at 9-9-2 on the season and finishes off their continuous adversity test of a season. The team battled through injuries and limited player availability throughout the season and managed to come within a guess of another Final Four. The team bids farewell to the class of 2017: Ashley Broderick, Spencer Dawson, Sky Dedrick, Katelyn LaRusso, Ashton Nowicki, and Ansley Peurifoy. Thank you for always supporting your Panthers!