DACULA -- Never has a goal been more of a relief than when Mariah Dickey's game-winner for Collins Hill.
For more than an hour on the field, the Eagles dominated Dacula with their offense. The ball hardly crossed midfield under Falcons' possession and when it did, possession quickly changed back to Collins Hill. For all 80 minutes, Dacula managed just two shots, one less than the Eagles' goals as Collins Hill advanced to the second round of the Class AAAAA girls soccer playoffs with a 3-0 road win. The Eagles travel to Lowndes next Wednesday.
"They frustrated us, obviously," Collins Hill head coach Jeff Tinklepaugh said. "They had a good game plan and they were able to keep us out a long time."
They held them out for just more than 69 minutes.
Just minutes earlier, Dickey had re-entered the game after a scheduled rest and when she had an opening, the senior snuck a shot through Dacula's defense from the left side breaking the scoreless tie.
"It gets your legs back under you," Dickey said of the rest she attributed to her finding the back of the net.
"It was a relief for us," Tinklepaugh added.
And it showed in the final six minutes, Collins Hill added two more goals -- from Taylor Donohue and Desiree Bowen -- as Dacula forced its attack upfield.
"From (the first goal) any momentum we had went away," Dacula coach Jason Guzzardo said. "We tried to commit to the attack, because you've got to get something."
The Falcons never scored, but they got plenty from senior goalie Magaly Gutierrez. The keeper stopped a dozen shots on the night including plenty of one-on-one attacks.
"She's come up big the entire season," Guzzardo said. "It's a tribute to her."
In the first half, Gutierrez made a one-handed diving save that began a night of frustration for Collins Hill.
The Eagles saw shots redirected by defenders, carom off the cross bar and land just wide of the net.
The ball landed everywhere but the back of the net. The one time the ball landed there, in the first half off the foot of Collins Hill's Dickey, offsides had already been called.
"It was frustrating at first because nothing was going in," Dickey said. "I felt like we pressed a lot harder in the second half."
As the shots kept missing, the Eagles' offense stayed patient for much of the night.
Tinklepaugh preached keeping the ball on the ground and trusting eventually a shot would make its way into the net.
"It's the law of averages," he said. "It's going to play in your favor at some point."
And with Dickey's shot, it finally did.
"We just had to keep the mentality that we've got to attack, we've got to attack, we've got to attack," Tinklepaugh said.
For Dacula, the loss ends a record-setting season. The 14-win Falcons set a school record for wins and freshman Makayla Clack's 24 goals are a new single-season record.
"This was like a championship calibre game," Guzzardo said. "It was an unlucky night, but we had luck go our way all season."