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Pelletier's OT goal sends GAC to semis

SAVANNAH - It took a little longer than coach Troy Bendickson would have liked, but his Greater Atlanta Christian girls soccer team is heading to the Class AA/A state semifinals.

After seeing fourth-ranked Savannah Country Day tie the game on a penalty kick with five minutes to play in the second half, No. 2 GAC prevailed thanks to the foot of Kelsey Pelletier, who scored the game-winner in a 2-1 Spartan victory.

The Spartans now travel to top-ranked Walker, a 2-0 winner over Paideia in Friday's quarterfinals, Tuesday for a Final Four showdown.

"It's tremendous," Bendickson said. "We've been unified from the beginning and we wanted it so bad because we fell way short of our goal last year. There was a mentality difference (this year) and we're a year older."

With 2 minutes, 4 seconds to play in the second of two 5-minute overtime periods, Pelletier spun away from an SCD defender and booted the ball into the left side of the goal, sending the Spartans (18-3 overall) to their first-ever semifinal appearance.

"When she turned she saw everything, the far post, wide open," Bendickson said. "She turned and fired. Great goal."

GAC scored the first goal of the game midway through the first half when Anna Douglas' direct kick found Samantha Abrahart for a header into the Hornets' goal for a 1-0 lead.

SCD (15-4) appeared to tie the game seven minutes later on a goal by Grace Lang Klein off an Ali Ramee assist, but it was waived off due to an offside call by the official.

Whistles were a common theme Friday night as the referee called a tight game, forcing the Hornets out of their preferred style of play.

"We're a fast-paced team and there were a lot of whistles that just slowed the game down," said SCD coach Wayne Aaron. "I told my (athletic director) today, if there were more than 15 whistles we'd be in trouble. That took us out of our game."

But the Hornets were the recipient of a controversial call with five minutes to play in regulation. GAC goalkeeper McKenzie Nelson was whistled for shoving an SCD forward in the goal box while jumping up for a loose ball. Klein was awarded a penalty kick and fired it into the lower-left corner goal to tie the game and force overtime.

Just over two minutes into the first extra period GAC appeared to have scored on a goal by Chelsea Gandy-Cromer off a nice cross-pass by Madeline Barker, but Gandy-Cromer was whistled for offsides, negating the goal and keeping the Hornets' season alive until Pelletier's winner.

SCD, which saw an eight-game winning streak snapped, also lost to GAC 5-4 back on Feb. 13. That game also was played in Savannah.