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Powell goal gives Mill Creek girls first playoff victory

Photo by Brandon Brigman

Photo by Brandon Brigman

MARIETTA -- With heavy weather moving into the metro Atlanta area, Mill Creek knew it had little time to lose in Wednesday's first-round Class AAAAA state playoff game against Lassiter.

Cari Powell wasted no time, netting the game's only goal less than two minutes into the game and lifting the No. 7 state-ranked Hawks to a 1-0 win over the eighth-ranked Trojans at Frank Fillmann Stadium.

It was the first postseason win in Mill Creek's seven-year history and puts the Hawks (14-3) into the second round, where they will play host to Alpharetta next Tuesday.

"We came out and we knew we needed to be aggressive from the start," Mill Creek coach Brent Leitsch said. "They (Lassiter) are an aggressive bunch and physical bunch. Cari got that ball and kept being aggressive."

Powell took control of a loose ball and dribbled in on left wing, weaving her way through the Lassiter (10-6-1) defense.

She then pulled up just inside the top of the penalty area before blistering a shot inside the near post to put the Hawks up 1-0 just 1:31 after the opening kickoff.

"The ball got played out and I knew if I pressured it, they might make a mistake," Powell said. "Sure enough, they hit it off me and I just kept going. I hit it and I was just praying it would go in.

"(The goal) gave us a lot of confidence. With the wind against us, we really needed that goal. It would've been a lot of pressure having to hold them all those minutes."

Indeed, Powell's goal into a heavy headwind gave the Hawks a big advantage, especially after they were able to take that one-goal lead with the wind at their backs into the second half, thanks to a strong defensive play by Megan Gil in the 10th minute.

Caroline Hernandez managed to stay onside before getting behind the Mill Creek defense on a long ball up the middle.

She then got the ball ahead and got around Hawks' goalkeeper Tessa Lukens, who had come far off her line, but Gil managed to occupy Hernandez and keep her from regaining possession, allowing Lukens and the defense to get back in the play.

Wind or no wind, both teams picked up the tempo in the second half, with each having quality scoring opportunities.

Lauren Tanner had several of Mill Creek's, including taking control of Tatum O'Keefe's corner kick from the left wing in the penalty area in the 46th minute, only to be robbed by an outstanding point-blank save from Trojans goalkeeper Ally Stone.

"We wanted a second goal," Leitsch said. "We are not in the mood of sitting on a one-goal lead with 40 minutes to go. We were up one goal against North Gwinnett, and we didn't want that feeling again.

"We've really got to work on finishing some of those corner kicks. We had too many opportunities left there."

Despite attacking into the wind in the second half, Lassiter created its share of scoring opportunities, as well.

Perhaps the Trojans' best chance came in the 65th minute, when Shannon Vogel's touch pass sprung Amanda Abbott on the right wing with one defender to beat.

But Abbott's shot was smothered by Lukens, and Mill Creek managed to maintain territorial control over the final minutes to hold on for the wind.

It was a tough ending for the Trojans, who were missing one of their top players in Abby Lutzenkirchen, who is in California working with the U.S. National U20 team.

And Powell's early goal also changed the complexion of their game plan.

"We win with or without (Lutzenkirchen)," Lassiter coach Robby Galvin said. "This was definitely a game we thought that as a team, we should be able to compete. Hat's off to Mill Creek. They're a great team. They've proven it all year.

"We had a defensive breakdown at the beginning. Whenever a team can score early, it's going to mess with your mind a little. That definitely our play."