Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Peachtree Ridge Katey Lippitt (22) races to the ball against Brookwood Kim Fincher (22) during the first round of Class AAAAA playoffs for high school girls soccer at Peachtree Ridge High School on Wednesday. Brookwood defeated Peachtree Ridge 1-0 (4-3).
SUWANEE --Ask Brookwood goalkeeper Taylor Strickland how many penalty kicks she's faced this season and she offers a quick response.
"I don't know, too many," the senior said.
Strickland, one of only four Bronco seniors, was feeling pretty good after her latest round of PKs. Her save and a Peachtree Ridge miss off the post were the differences as unranked Brookwood stunned the No. 2 and Region 7-AAAAA champion Lions 1-0 (4-3 on PKs) in the first round of the Class AAAAA playoffs.
It was the Broncos' seventh game this season that finished on PKs and their fourth shootout win. They turned the tables on Peachtree Ridge, which had won six of seven PK games this season, including one over Brookwood back on Feb. 16.
"I'd say we're a little experienced at this," Brookwood girls coach Sarah Crawford said of PKs. "And we've gotten better at it."
Peachtree Ridge freshman goalkeeper Cosette Morche was just as battle-tested on PKs as Strickland. Her big PK saves had delivered key region wins over Collins Hill and North Gwinnett, but she didn't stop one Wednesday as the Broncos' Fiorella Gamarra, Sanon Williams, Francessca Ellis and Briel Power converted their kicks. The visitors' only miss went wide of the goal.
"You live or die by (the PKs)," said veteran Peachtree Ridge girls coach Bill Holleman. "We went to seven of them during the regular season, more than anybody should have to play."
While Holleman coached his last Peachtree Ridge game -- he's retiring June 1 -- Crawford is just getting her coaching career started. The third-year head coach picked up her first playoff victory after first-round losses the past two seasons.
"It was really nice to break that streak," said Crawford, whose team plays at Tift County in the second round next Wednesday.
Brookwood (11-6), which finished with a 5-3 edge in shots on goal and a 7-1 advantage in corner kicks, had a couple of opportunities to score early but Gamarra's shot was punched high by Morche and Kim Fincher's close attempt was just wide as Morche charged toward her.
Fincher left with an ankle injury early in the first half and was on crutches the rest of the night, dealing a blow to the Broncos' attack.
Peachtree Ridge (12-5-1) had two decent scoring chances, too, both on counterattack breakaways. Both ended with shots trickling wide, one by Shelby Jennings in the 13th minute and another by Jordyn Missel in the 77th.
Brookwood had the only shot on goal during the two, five-minute overtime periods, sending the game to PKs. Alanna Dineen and Jennings made the Lions' first two kicks, but their third kicker hit the post and Strickland saved the fourth kicker's shot.
Macey Raines made Peachtree Ridge's fifth PK to keep her team alive, but Power's conversion gave the Broncos the upset win.
"We didn't feel like the underdog," Strickland said. "We came out ready to win. We felt like we were going to win."
The Broncos' record isn't as impressive as it has been many seasons, but they're peaking at the right time with seven wins in their last eight matches.
Julia Bassell, Michelle Allen and Meredith Mellard led a stout defensive effort, while Peachtree Ridge was just as strong in the back led by Phoebe Palmer.
"I think (the girls) had a good reason to play since we came in, sort of as the underdog," Crawford said. "We lost them and they're No. 2. We're unranked. But we came in mentally prepared for it. It was a great team win."
While Brookwood moves on, Peachtree Ridge saw its tremendous season end. Holleman didn't rule out coaching again some day, but said he just wants to enjoy retirement right now.
He had nothing but praise for his team afterward.
"The kids played extremely hard," said Holleman, who won a boys state title at Shiloh before moving to Peachtree Ridge. "All year long nobody gave us much credit. Nobody thought we'd do much of anything. But we had the best record in school history and won the region title. That's not bad."