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Bortles' corner kick lifts North to win over Grayson

Photo: Craig Cappy North Gwinnett's Caroline Gualdoni (2) tries to score past Grayson defender Jessica Allen (13) during Wednesday's game.

Photo: Craig Cappy North Gwinnett's Caroline Gualdoni (2) tries to score past Grayson defender Jessica Allen (13) during Wednesday's game.

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Photo: Craig Cappy North Gwinnett's Katie Strand (18) tries to run down the ball past Grayson defender Savannah Selby (17) during Wednesday's game.

SUWANEE -- North Gwinnett's girls soccer team has played for the state championship the last two years.

The Bulldogs won the Class AAAAA title in 2010 and finished runner-up last year.

The Bulldogs graduated their best player and have a new head coach.

Despite the change, it was the same old result in Wednesday's first round playoff game.

Brooke Bortles' corner kick led to the game's only goal as North defeated Grayson 1-0 on Wednesday.

"It was a lot more interesting than I thought it would be," first-year North head coach Erik Crawford said.

North Gwinnett, the No. 2 seed from Region 7-AAAAA, will play at East Coweta on Wednesday.

It's the second time in three years that Grayson (13-5-1) has been put out of the playoffs by North (13-6).

"It's always a battle with them," Grayson coach Terry Klinect said. "It was a great season. Thirteen wins is nothing to be ashamed of."

Grayson defeated Brookwood earlier this season, but couldn't knock off the No. 2 seed from Region 7 in North.

The difference in the game was Bortles' corner kick in the 12th minute. On her second corner kick of the night, Bortles put the ball right in front of the goal. The ball hit a Grayson defender and went in for the 1-0 lead.

"It was pretty nerve racking to be honest. I am just happy she headed it in," Bortles said. "I was trying to hit the back post."

Said Klinect: "We should have put a body on it instead of a head. Mistakes happen. They fought hard."

North had several opportunities to put the game away with another goal. Taylor Burns had a shot go left of the goal as the Grayson goalkeeper came out. Bortles sent a shot over the goal in the second half, Caroline Gualdoni hit the right post and Lauren Harriman had a wide-open shot go to the Grayson goalkeeper.

"Our shots were a little over," Bortles said. "We put a lot of pressure on them."

North's defense put a lot of pressure on Grayson and the Bulldogs outshot the Rams 16-4.

"They've got a great defense," Klinect said. "They really forced pressure. They were going hard at us."

The North defense of goalkeeper Austin McCausland, Kenzie Loula, Devin Gaskill, Paige Scarbrough and Jessica Eberhardt gave the Bulldogs their eighth shutout of the year.

In her first start, freshman Gaskill was named the team's player of the game.

"She shut down one of the best strikers," Crawford said. "We have seven freshmen and four sophomores. I hope tonight was a big learning experience for them."

Bortles is one of six seniors on the team for North. The Bulldogs have made deep playoff runs the last three years and Bortles believes they can do it again this season.

"I think our team is good enough to make it to state, but we have to win a couple of more games first," Bortles said.