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Wolves get vengeance

ROSWELL - The adjustments were exactly right and the Wesleyan Wolves avenged an earlier loss to Fellowship Christian by an identical 1-0 score in the second round of the girls state AA/A soccer playoffs Tuesday.

Wesleyan had made several crucial changes to its lineup since a March 6 loss to the Paladins.

First, sophomore Kenzie Stanford was moved to defense and has marked the opposition's best players - with excellent results. Fellowship Christian rarely got free for quality scoring chances and a chunk of the credit for Wesleyan's 12th shutout of the year can go to Stanford.

With Stanford back, Wolves head coach Lacy Gilbert pushed freshman Emma Smiley to forward.

That change worked out pretty well, too.

Smiley had the game's only goal in the 61st minute.

"We mixed it up for this game and we had a better idea of how to play them," Gilbert said. "We knew they'd be physical, we expected that. We knew they had some fast offensive players. So we shifted things around to adjust to them.

"We also knew they were going to double-team and triple-team Paige (Pickert) every time she got the ball. She's so good with her feet. The second half we pushed her up top so that we'd open her up some more to shoot. She shot a bunch the second half. We switched her with one of our forwards.

"Even when Paige doesn't score, she makes things happen."

It was a touch from Pickert that got Smiley the ball in front of the net. Smiley tapped the ball from her left foot to the right and booted a bouncing shot past the goalkeeper.

What followed was a nearly interminable 15 minutes as Wesleyan tried to defend the scant lead. But the Wolves (16-4) are well accustomed to tight games - this was their fourth 1-0 win of the season - and managed to hold off the Paladins (13-4).

"It was the longest 15 minutes ever," Smiley said.

For the first 10 of those minutes, Fellowship Christian was in Wesleyan's end and getting continued pressure. Then the Wolves, who are ranked sixth in Class AA/A, tightened the screws and generated a few final scoring chances of their own.

"Just the fact that it was in the state tournament, we all just really wanted it really bad - especially for the seniors," Smiley said.

Wesleyan has won its last 10 games and will play at home against St. Vincent's on Friday in the state quarterfinals.