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Wesleyan girls upset GAC in PKs

NORCROSS -- The Wesleyan girls went screaming across the field when their sixth penalty kick skipped into the lower right corner of the goal.

The young Wolves beat top-ranked Greater Atlanta Christian 2-1 after scoring first and clamping down defensively to triumph in PKs on Friday.

GAC already had secured the Area 11-AA/A title and head coach Troy Bendickson said he tried to convince his team, down 1-0 at the half, to treat it like a playoff game.

"But you can't just step in those shoes anytime," he said.

It was the Spartans first loss outside of Class AAAAA opposition and he was not happy with the team's effort.

"We were weak," Bendickson said. "We were just weak. I mean, they played hard. I don't want to take anything away from Wesleyan. They cut down all channels. They tried to defend with eight.

"They didn't pack the box by any means. They had maybe two chances on goal."

But the Wolves converted on one of those about 20 minutes into the game.

GAC committed a foul down low and Wesleyan got a free kick out of it. Kenzie Stanford took the shot and it was headed in by Savannah Newman.

The Wolves, who beat Buford on Tuesday for their first PK victory in a long time, held off the potent Spartans for the rest of the first half.

"They're the strongest competition, other than a couple AAAAA teams, that we play," Wesleyan head coach Lacy Gilbert said. "But the advantage is we know their strengths, we know what their team is like.

"So we had a specific plan coming in and I could not be more proud of our girls. They did exactly what we asked them to do."

The defensive effort continued into the second half.

GAC tied it with more that 25 minutes to play on a goal by Chelsea Gandy-Cromer, but the Wolves didn't let it rattle them and forced overtime before winning 5-4 in PKs. Sophomore keeper Hannah Dwayne made one big save to help salt away the win for Wesleyan, which has just one senior and one junior on the roster.

"We knew it was going to be a physical, defensive battle," Gilbert said. "They just have a strong attack. But our girls took advantage of what they could."