Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Mill Creek's Alex Giles (4) celebrates her goal past Alpharetta's goal keeper Jackie McGivney (00) during Class AAAAAA first-round girls high school soccer playoffs in Hoschton Tuesday.
HOSCHTON -- Alpharetta kept Mill Creek's primary offensive weapon in check during the first half. But the Raiders couldn't maintain that defensive pressure as Lauren Tanner racked up four second-half goals to lead Mill Creek to a 5-1 win in the first round of the Class AAAAAA girls soccer state tournament.
Mill Creek, Class AAAAAA's No. 2-ranked team, advances to next Tuesday's second round and will host Brookwood.
Mill Creek jumped on top at the 35:34 mark of the first half as McKenzie Rice fed Alex Giles for the opening goal of the game and a 1-0 Hawks' lead.
Mill Creek won a ball near midfield and got it into the offensive zone where Rice and Giles combined for the goal.
The two teams traded offensive threats throughout the first half until Alpharetta tied it at 1-1 on Mandy Cole's goal with 6:20 left in the half.
Alpharetta got it started on a corner kick -- the Raiders' fifth of the half -- that Mill Creek goalkeeper Rachel Allred punched away, but that left an open goal and Cole capitalized with the score.
But in the final 40 minutes, it was all Mill Creek.
"We let (Alpharetta) outwork us in the first half," said Mill Creek head coach Brent Leitsch. "But in the second half, we came out and worked harder and became the aggressor. When we got that second goal and took the lead early in the second half, everything started to click."
Mill Creek wasted no time regaining the lead just 33 seconds into the second half as Tanner took a pass from Giles and scored to give the Hawks a 2-1 advantage.
Alpharetta did have a great chance to tie it with 24:30 remaining, but Jacqueline Sittler just missed on the left side with a header.
Mill Creek put the game away when Tanner scored her second goal of the night to make it 3-1 Hawks.
Melissa Hanken got a pass to Tanner, who split two defenders 30 yards out and then moved in to close range to finish and give Mill Creek the two-goal margin with only 13:14 left to play.
"We came out a completely different team in the second half," said Tanner. "We knew we had to get the job done and start playing with more intensity. We felt like (Alpharetta) was playing harder than we were. But it was more in our heads than it was anything we were doing on the field. "
Tanner got her third goal of the game with 6:17 left on a rebound in front of the Alpharetta goal, then knocked home her fourth and final goal with 1:40 remaining on an assist from Shelby Murphy to complete the scoring.
"Hopefully, we learned something tonight," said Leitsch. "If we want to win the (state) title, and I know we do, we have to play aggressively for 80 minutes with no letdowns. It just gets tougher in every round and we have to be ready."