Harris County opens state playoffs with dominating performance
By DAVID MITCHELL
HAMILTON, Ga. -- Overexcitement at the prospect of entering the Class AAAAA girls soccer playoffs as a 1 seed was a possibility for Harris County. But overconfidence? The Lady Tigers squashed that idea in one fell swoop.
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Harris County defeated visiting Windsor Forest 6-0 in the opening round of the playoffs on Wednesday, putting forth a dominating performance in which they scored three goals in each half.
Midfielder Caitlyn Callaway, last season's scoring leader, notched a hat trick with three goals in the contest.
With the win, the Lady Tigers advance to the second round, where they will host Northgate on Wednesday.
It scored its first goal nearly 14 minutes into the game, its second less than seven minutes later and its third shortly before the half. After the Lady Tigers knocked in a shot to go ahead 4-0 in the second half, coach Rob Grant could be heard reminding his players that it was only 1-0.
"That's the way we look at it," he said. "Even when we're up like that, I want them to continue to focus and continue to play hard. We've played teams where we've been down and came back. We were down 3-1 to Thomas County (Central) and Lee County and came back to win 5-3. We didn't want that to happen to us."
Grant said his players were focused, but still very loose when they took the field.
It showed with a lot of early pressure, resulting in a handful of good looks that sailed just wide. The closest early on was a shot off the post by forward Riley Alford less than 10 minutes into the game.
Finally, about 14 minutes in, Autumn Lewis knocked the first goal through with the help of one of the Windsor Forest players. She attempted a shot, which ricocheted off the keeper's hands and bounced a few times in front of the goal.
It hit a Windsor Forest player and went into the net.
Callaway scored her first goal of the game, the team's second, in the 22nd minute on a hard kick from about 20 yards out. The ball sailed past the outstretched fingers of the keeper to put Harris County up 2-0. She had another shot bounce off the post two minutes later, but added two goals in the second half. She headed one past the keeper to go up 4-0 and tapped one in from short distance to finish the scoring at 6-0.
"She's helped us in our midfield, so she hasn't scored as much this year," Grant said.
"We needed her back there to direct. This year, we've spread them out with several other girls close to the 10 mark in goals also. The opportunities presented themselves today, and she took them."
Alford added one goal in the first half and Sarah Crye got one in the second.
Keeper Kayla Gray saved 15 shots to earn the shutout for Harris County. Lewis notched two assists and Ariauna Washington had one.
Harris County faces Northgate next. The Lady Vikings are the defending state champions, but lost two straight to Villa Rica and Columbus by identical 3-2 scores to end the regular season. They won in the first round 4-0 over Houston County and have been among the state's best throughout the year.
Wednesday at Harris County
Goals-- Harris County, Caitlyn Callaway 3, Sarah Crye, Autumn Lewis, Riley Alford. Assists-- Harris County, Lewis 2, Ariauna Washington 1. Goalies-- Harris County, Kayla Gray 15 saves. Records-- Harris County, 13-5-1; Windsor Forest, 10-7. Next: Harris County, Wednesday vs. Northgate at home.