Photo: Craig Cappy. Wesleyan's Christina Newman (15) shoots and scores the Wolves' first goal as she is defended by Aquinas' MaryBeth Lovering (7) during Thursday's game.
NORCROSS — For Wesleyan’s girls soccer team, there was no problem generating scoring opportunities in the Wolves’ Class A first-round state playoff game against Aquinas. Instead, there was the issue of finding the back of the net for a score.
Twenty shots into the game with many wide open and at point-blank range, Wesleyan could hardly believe its collective eyes as Aquinas held a 1-0 lead on the scoreboard with the opening half winding down.
But Wesleyan recovered — thanks to three goals in a three-minute span — to pull away for a 5-1 win at Henderson Stadium and advance to the next round against First Presbyterian next Tuesday in Macon.
After Lauren Gubosh had given Aquinas (9-6-1) the one-goal lead at the 17:25 mark of the first half, Wesleyan’s Christina Moraitis ended the drought and finally beat Aquinas goalkeeper Taylor Schneider to tie the game at 1-1 at the 1:57 mark. That kick-started the Wesleyan offense for the rest of the game as the Wolves controlled the tempo and pulled away.
“We were just having trouble staying calm and just putting a good shot on the ball,” said Wesleyan head coach Lacy Gilbert. “We were trying to power so many of those shots when we just needed to take care of getting off a good shot.
Christina’s (first-half) goal was good for us to end the (first) half and then we really did a good job of doing what we talked about at the half, and that’s staying focused and let things come to us.”
The Wolves came out of the gates on fire to start the second half, scoring two goals in the first 87 seconds to build a 3-1 lead.
Katie Williams got it going for Wesleyan at 39:10 of the second half to give the Wolves their first lead of the game. Then Kenzie Stanford cashed in a penalty kick at 38:33 to push Wesleyan out to a two-goal advantage.
Wesleyan (11-7-1) got two more goals late in the game to seal the deal. Meagan Hall scored with 6:26 remaining to push the Wolves’ lead to 4-1, then Elise Abernathy closed out the scoring with a goal with 2:04 left in the contest.
For the game, Wesleyan registered 34 shots and maintained consistent pressure on the Aquinas goal. Meanwhile, the Wolves’ defense was stingy — allowing just four shots with only Gobosh’s initial attempt finding the nets.
“We’ll get in some practice on Friday and Monday before facing a good First Pres team,” said Gilbert. “We have some good things to take away from this game and we also have some things to work on. We have to understand that it is the state tournament, so there’s not as much room for error and each game could be your last.”