Grace Morgan’s last second corner fell to the feet of a Chelsea defender as the final horn sounded at the Class 5A Girls State Championship game Saturday at John Hunt Park. Chelsea’s Brittany Holderby had just scored the game-winner with three minutes remaining in the game before Athens’ last second corner kick opportunity fell short.
Morgan scored the game-tieing goal mid way through the second half, before Holderby’s left-footed shot gave a Chelsea a 3-2 victory over Athens to win the state championship.
“It was a battle between two heavy-weights,” said Athens head coach J.B. Hutchison. “They took advantage of a couple of mistakes we made and it cost us.”
Athens struck first less than two minutes into the game when Morgan’s cross from the left corner bounced off a Chelsea defender and over the line for the opening goal. The left-footed cross hit the Hornets’ defender awkwardly and forced the Chelsea goalkeeper to scramble backwards. By the time the keeper caught the ball, she was over the line and Athens had a 1-0 lead.
Chelsea took control in the first half following the own goal and evened the score fifteen minutes later when Alli Cochran hit a high, long shot over Athens goalie Allie Dye fingertips and into the goal.
The score remained level until Anna Pifer took advantage of a loose ball in the Athens box and gave Chelsea a 2-1 lead mid way through the second-half. Just as they had done in the 5-2 over Briarwood Friday, Athens responded with Morgan’s fourth goal of the tournament.
“We tried to take advantage of Grace (Morgan) on that left side and pull out their center defender,” Hutchison said. “She nailed, just like she has done all season long for us.”
Morgan found space on the right flank and sent a high-looping shot towards goal. After hanging in the air for what seemed like an eternity, the ball sailed over the goalie’s head and into the side-netting.
“I was shooting it,” Morgan said. “I was trying to win the game for us. The wind just happened to carry it into the goal.”
Athens’ celebration soon turned into desolation when Holderby’s left-footed shot beat Dye to the near-post. The state finals appearance was the first in school history for Athens, which had lost five consecutive years in the state semifinals.
“It feels good to have something to show for ourselves,” Conway said about taking home the runner-up trophy. “We made school history to even make it here. We played our hearts out.”
Conway, one of just two seniors on this Athens team, received an honorary scholarship awarded to just one player in the entire tournament.
Athens finished the season 22-2 and the Class 5A runner-up.
Heart-break for Athens in state finals
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