GAC falls on PK in OT

Photo: David McGregor . GAC's Anna Arnau (3) consoles Kelsey Pelletier after the Spartans' 1-0 loss to Blessed Trinity in the Class AA state finals Friday in Roswell.

Photo: David McGregor . GAC's Anna Arnau (3) consoles Kelsey Pelletier after the Spartans' 1-0 loss to Blessed Trinity in the Class AA state finals Friday in Roswell.

ROSWELL -- It came down to penalty kicks again. Only this time, Blessed Trinity needed just one.

Blessed Trinity freshman Delaney Fechalos' successful conversion of a PK with 2:37 left in the second overtime was enough to lift the Titans 1-0 over Greater Atlanta Christian in the finals of the Class AA girls state soccer tournament on Friday night.

The PK was awarded when Kayla Puzas was hit with a yellow card in the box while trying to defend a Titan corner kick. Puzas was chasing down the ball as it was being corralled by one of the Titans along the baseline after the ball was knocked out past the goal.

Puzas made an attempt to knock the ball out by sliding in from behind, but the official felt that too much contact was made, resulting in the call.

Fechalos' shot went hard to the left and was gauged properly by keeper Elizabeth White but the ball knuckled in under her reach, hitting the back of the net and sending the packed crowd into a frenzy.

"Kayla was trying to get on it but I guess he called her leaning into it," GAC head coach Troy Bendickson said. "I didn't see where it was or what really happened, but that's a hard way to end the game."

GAC, which lost earlier in the regular season to the Titans on penalty kicks, did everything in its offensive power to take control. The Spartans (16-3-2) were able to keep pressure on the Titans' defensive end, especially in the second half, but couldn't come through with the shot it needed.

The Spartans' best look came with less than 18 minutes left in regulation when Rachel Garcia took control of the ball on the far left side of the box.

She quickly moved to the right and had an alley open to shoot. She was able to rip off a sharp shot, but the ball sliced too hard and high to the right, causing the ball to carom hard off the crossbar.

The Spartans had four other shots on goal, but none were as well struck as Garcia's near miss.

"We couldn't take advantage of the momentum we had most of the second half," Bendickson said.

The play of the Titans' (19-2-1) back defensive group, led by Allyease Schwartz, stood up to the challenge of GAC's scoring attack, but the effort of the Spartans' defensive group was just as strong.

The back four of Puzas, Kelsey Fervier, Anna Arnau and Anna Douglas held the Titans to just one shot on goal. That led to GAC being able to force the issue on offense in the second half and grab the momentum.

The call near the end of the second overtime changed all that, ultimately resulting in Blessed Trinity's fifth state title since 2004.

"GAC came out the way we knew they would come out," Blessed Trinity head coach Gilbert Jean-Baptiste said. "Their offense is unbelievable and they had us on the ropes there for a while. I don't know why we got fouled there at the end and it's unfortunate to end that way.

"My heart goes out to GAC because I've been where they are right now. It's tough to lose in your first time out but they can use that for motivation for the future."

GAC was playing in its first state final after losing in the semifinals the past two years. Friday's close call left many Spartans in tears after the game after having come so close in their first state championship match.

"I am really proud of this group," Bendickson said. "It's really hard for them to hear that because they don't care right now. Second place means nothing to them right now. This was our first final but I felt like we were the team to beat. I am losing eight seniors and they won't get another chance and that's the hardest part."

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