Kennesaw - As well as Grayson played in its second-round game of the Class AAAAA girls soccer state playoffs, host Kennesaw Mountain was just a little bit better Wednesday night at Cobb Energy/Mustang Stadium.
The No. 2 state-ranked Mustangs evened the game early in the second half to force extra time and goalkeeper Lauren Worley made two huge saves in the penalty-kick shootout to lift her team to a 2-1 victory over the seventh-ranked Rams.
KMHS (18-1) moves on for the first time in school history to the state quarterfinals, where it will play host to Warner Robins on Saturday. Grayson's season ended at 14-5.
"It was a game of missed opportunities," Grayson coach Chris Wilson said. "But credit my girls. They played hard."
Grayson certainly played hard in getting on the board on its first big scoring opportunity late in the first half.
Samantha Lange sent a corner kick from the right side into the penalty area that was headed straight up into the air.
KMHS goalkeeper Lauren Worley managed to punch the ball away, but the Mustangs couldn't clear the loose ball and Nicole Peters swooped in to collect it and deposit it under the crossbar, giving the Rams a 1-0 lead with 13:09 left in the opening half. Grayson then dominated the remainder of the half and took that lead into intermission. That's when KMHS coach Patrick Fox said his team regrouped and did a little soul-searching.
"I was actually a little late getting to the locker room," Fox said. "When I got there, one of our senior captains, Kristen Kranick, was giving (the rest of the team) an earful. She told them about how (the seniors) weren't ready for the season to be over."
The Mustangs responded well to the challenge, and it was the captain who set the example early in the second half.
Keri McGinnis ran down a pass in the right wing corner after a Grayson turnover and sent the ball toward the goal box.
Grayson goalkeeper Sara Beth Anderson tried to corral the loose ball, but Melanie Conner beat her to it and flipped a pass to Kranick, who finished the play and pulled KMHS even at 1-1 with 36:06 left in regulation.
"Games are often won or lost in the first 10 minutes or last 10 minutes of a half," Wilson said. "Kennesaw Mountain came out in the first 10 minutes of the second half and really came at us.
"We tried to hang onto the ball a little too long, and they had numbers. they did a good job of switching and getting the ball (to Kranick). It was a really good goal."
Neither team was able to find the net the rest of regulation or in the two 5-minute overtime periods, forcing the game into penalty kicks. After McGinnis got KMHS on the board, Worley set the tone for the shootout by diving to her left to stop Lange.
Hannah Norwood then matched Rebekah Perry's goal in the second round to pull the Rams to within 2-1 in the shootout, but Abby Rapp was able sneak her shot past Anderson to give KMHS its two-goal lead back.
Brooke Van Baush tried to help Grayson keep pace, but Worley came up with another huge save, giving Kranick a chance to end the game.
As with KMHS' three other shots, Anderson had Kranick's attempt read correctly. However, the Mustangs' senior was able to get enough on it to get it past the Rams' goalkeeper inside the back post and give her team the victory.