GAC boys soccer falls in AA semis

NORCROSS -- This was supposed to be about revenge.

Revenge was one of the first things Greater Atlanta Christian head coach Thom Jacquet said after his boys quarterfinal win over North Oconee.

He and his second-ranked Spartans wanted No. 5 Westminster in this Class AA semifinal. They wanted the team that took the big prize away from them on this field last year.

They got the Wildcats, but there was no revenge.

Westminster took advantage of every single bobble and opening that the Spartans gave them. The Wildcats (16-4-2) scored the first four goals in a 5-2 rout at the GAC soccer stadium Tuesday night.

"We just gave goals that we didn't need to give," said Jacquet. "They converted every chance they had. They didn't have many, but they managed to convert them all."

GAC (14-6-1) beat Westminster 2-1 in their only regular season meeting in April. This was more important. But it was nothing like the first one.

The Spartans gave up two goals on set pieces and two more following turnovers, crushing their hopes of avenging a state championship game loss to Westminster last year.

"We dug ourselves a hole," said senior Jimmy Stahlke. "They got the lucky shots there and the little extra touches. We got them in the regular season and they got us this time."

The home whites actually controlled the play for much of the first half and had the first two chances to strike.

In the 10th minute, Nash Wagnon recovered a loose ball in space and ran right down the middle toward the mountainous Westminster goalie Andrew Freschi. He dropped the pass off to his left to Max Gomas who was about as open as you get. He missed it right.

"If we grabbed that one, it might have changed the game a little bit," said Jacquet.

Two minutes later, Wagnon picked off another pass and had some room to the right, but his blast climbed too high.

The Spartans had given up one goal in the first three playoff games. They gave up two goals on the next two shots in the semifinal.

In the 25th minute, the Wildcats forced a corner kick. Joshua Bennett gave Harrison Butker a perfect ball in the box. The junior sent a header past freshman goalie Jake Doiron to make it 1-0.

Eight minutes later, Paul Vicinanza grabbed a loose ball in box and scored on Doiron's right side. GAC just couldn't clear it.

"One (goal) is not a big deal," said Jacquet. "Even when they got that second I thought we were in good shape."

And a 2-0 deficit is manageable. But three minutes into the second half, the Spartans' comeback went from tough to nearly impossible.

Another Spartan turnover led to another corner kick from the right. Bennett dished out another great pass that Trey Blasingame knocked in to make it 3-0.

Two minutes later, another turnover and another goal. Chandler Gay was the recipient this time to make it 4-0.

That sent the Spartans into desperation mode for the final half hour.

Wagnon did a lot of work to score the first one. He took a great pass from Gomas, stumbled over a tackle and ripped one low and left to make it 4-1.

With 10 minutes to go, Daniel Johnson slipped a beautiful ball to freshman Will Hamryka at the top of the box. He took one step, fired and scored to close the score to 4-2 Westminster.

A minute later, Hamryka took an optimistic shot from about 30 was deflected to the left to a wide open Vishal Patel. The senior was about six yards away. His shot never made the keeper flinch and rolled out of bounds.

That was that.

The Wildcats added a victory lap goal in the final two minutes to finish it off. Westminster faces Blessed Trinity in the state championship game Friday night.

For the Spartans, they lose six seniors. Five of them were starters who will walk away without their revenge.

"It's kind of tough losing like this," said Stahlke. "It's pretty tough to lose to (Westminster) here again. Nothing we can do about it now."