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Harriman leads North to third round

Photo by Brandon Brigman

Photo by Brandon Brigman

ALPHARETTA -- With a familiar opponent, and familiar weather, North Gwinnett advanced to the third round of the playoffs again on Tuesday.

The Bulldogs played under intermittent rain showers and knocked off Milton 2-1 thanks to two goals from junior forward Lauren Harriman, and a stunning save from senior goalkeeper Michelle DeMaris.

Harrimann, who scored three goals in North's first-round win, left the game with 20 minutes remaining with a left knee injury.

"We knew we were going to get a lot of pressure from them," Harriman said. "They're a really good team, so to come out with a win like this is amazing."

North (17-3) advances to host Kennesaw Mountain on Friday.

It was a rematch of last year's first-round playoff meeting where North scored in the last six minutes to win, 1-0, and the rain was reminiscent of last year's state championship game.

"We knew this was going to be our toughest game all year," North coach Mark Karen said. "It was a fight, and we were on our heels the last 15-20 minutes."

The start of the Milton's (14-3) offensive push coincided with the departure of Harriman, who collided with a Milton player, and said her left knee bent inward. Harriman said the team trainers and coaches thought it was a sprained ligament, but wouldn't know for sure until a re-evaluation.

Karen said Harriman's absence had an impact on the pace of the game, but it also gave other players a chance to step up, which they did.

Milton's onslaught nearly paid off with five minutes to play when the ball pinballed to the Eagles' Nora Elshami, who was alone five yards from the goal. But DeMaris was equal to the task, and stuffed Elshami's shot.

For North's game-winning goal, Harriman was the beneficiary of a tic-tac-toe play. After DeMaris punched a Milton shot out of harm's way to sophomore Taylor Burns. Burns then dribbled it about halfway up the field, and then handed the ball to junior Brooke Bortles.

With a defender in between Bortles and Harriman, Bortles drew the defender, then tapped the ball to Harriman, who was one-on-one with the keeper, who scored easily.

"It was that extra pass that did it," Karen said. "Brooke was smart enough to play that extra pass across, and it worked out very well."

Each team scored on a turnover in the first half, deep in the opponent's end of the field. Harriman opened the scoring with 34:14 remaining in the first half, after she took a breakaway from about 30 yards. Then, eight minutes later, Milton's Callie O'Connor answered on a similar play.