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Wesleyan reaches first-ever
Final Four

NORCROSS - The Wesleyan girls have built their long winning streak on defense. But after giving up only their second goal in seven weeks, a little extra offense was needed.

Kenzie Winn, one of the Wolves' many freshmen, helped provide it. She certainly has the appropriate last name.

Down 1-0 at halftime, No. 6-ranked Wesleyan battled back to edge No. 3 St. Vincent's of Savannah 2-1 on Friday and advance to a state soccer Final Four for the first time.

Winn provided the winner with 10 minutes left in regulation, using her speed to run down a lead pass and blasting a shot past St. Vincent's keeper Morgan Williams, who had come out in an attempt to get to the ball first.

"Kenzie has scored three goals this season and all of them have been huge," Wesleyan coach Lacy Gilbert said.

None was bigger than this one, though.

"Our freshmen have been great," Wesleyan senior standout Paige Pickert said. "We definitely wouldn't gave gotten this far without them."

Winn's brother, Connor, won a state championship last year in baseball at Wesleyan. Now it may be her turn.

"I hope so," she said. "I'm so excited right now. I can't believe it."

Wesleyan (17-4) will host No. 8 Lovett (14-7) on Tuesday in the Class AA/A semifinals. The Lions won a match with Wesleyan in February 3-0, but that was well before Gilbert made an adjustment that has given her team a big, big lift.

McKenzie Stanford, a speedy sophomore, was moved from forward to defense at midseason to help senior Rachael Duane in the back and the Wolves haven't lost since, taking an 11-game winning streak into the semifinals.

"I think we have one of the strongest back lines in the state," Gilbert said.

Wesleyan also has a talented, although young, keeper in Hannah Duane, Rachael's sister and one of the team's 11 freshmen.

The Wolves have nine shutouts during their winning streak, with the only goal before the St. Vincent's match coming from Providence Christian.

St. Vincent's (15-3-1) had scored 14 goals in its two playoff victories and the Saints didn't waste much time getting on the scoreboard against the Wolves.

Erin Fogarty hit the crossbar with a shot midway in the first half and freshman Imani Dandridge got to the ball in front, blasting a low shot by keeper Duane.

Wesleyan tied the match midway in the second half, converting off a corner kick. A scramble in front followed Pickert's boot and senior Kiersten White was there to kick the ball in.

Then it was Winn's turn 10 minutes later to score her biggest goal yet. Her others came in a 2-1 regular season win over Providence and in the 2-0 first-round playoff victory over Fannin County.

"I don't really know who passed it," she said after the winner against St. Vincent's. "Once I got to the ball, I was just trying to get off a good, firm kick."

Wesleyan has scored just five goals in its three playoff games, but that has been enough.

"Our team has gotten better every game," said Pickert, who has signed with Furman. "We've come so far. I'm so excited. I feel that we can go all the way. It's been an amazing, amazing season. I hardly know what to say."

Wesleyan lost senior Caylie Love during the game to a reoccurrence of a knee injury, but even that couldn't stop the Wolves.

"That was a great, great second half by the girls," Gilbert said. "It was a very good team we beat. I'm so proud of the way we're playing. We basically just have seniors and freshmen, but they are doing so well together. It's been wonderful to watch."