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Garcia, GAC roll into state soccer finals

Staff Photo: John Bohn Greater Atlanta Christian's Rachel Garcia (2) takes control of the ball while defended by Wesleyan's Hope Morgan (7) during the first half of a girls soccer semifinal Class AA state playoff game played on Tuesday. GAC defeated Wesleyan 7-0.

Staff Photo: John Bohn Greater Atlanta Christian's Rachel Garcia (2) takes control of the ball while defended by Wesleyan's Hope Morgan (7) during the first half of a girls soccer semifinal Class AA state playoff game played on Tuesday. GAC defeated Wesleyan 7-0.

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Staff Photo: John Bohn Wesleyan's Beck Coxhead (2) defends Greater Atlanta Christian's Kayla Puzas (13) during a girls soccer semifinal Class AA state playoff game on Tuesday. Puzas scored the first of GAC's 7 goals of the game as GAC defeated Wesleyan 7-0.

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Staff Photo: John Bohn Greater Atlanta Christian's Rachel Garcia (2), left, celebrates with teammate Mollie Arrendale (12), right, after Garcia scored the second of her three goals during a girls soccer semifinal Class AA state playoff game against Wesleyan on Tuesday. GAC defeated Wesleyan 7-0. Garcia also had a pair of assists.

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Staff Photo: John Bohn Greater Atlanta Christian's Mollie Arrendale (12) shoots and scores a goal while defended by Wesleyan's Caroline Robertson (17) during the first half of a girls soccer semifinal Class AA state playoff game played at GAC on Tuesday. Arrendale's goal set the score of the game at 5-0. GAC defeated Wesleyan 7-0.

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Staff Photo: John Bohn Wesleyan's Ellie Hall (12) defends Greater Atlanta Christian's Abbie Abrahart (18) during the first half of a girls soccer semifinal Class AA state playoff game played at GAC on Tuesday. GAC defeated Wesleyan 7-0.

NORCROSS -- The bouncy opening bars of the Fratellis' "Chelsea Dagger" rang out early and often as the Greater Atlanta Christian girls rolled into the state finals.

The top-ranked Spartans' goal celebration song went off three times in the first eight minutes en route to a 7-0 victory in their Class AA soccer semifinal against Wesleyan on Tuesday.

"We've got one more game and it's going to be a big one," said senior Taylor Wagnon, who teamed up with Rachel Garcia for a pair of backbreaking goals 13 seconds apart in the eighth minute. "It was probably the best game we've had."

GAC (19-1) has won its' four playoff games by a combined 36-0 and the defending champs will face the winner of Lovett-Westminster in Saturday's title game.

"We know it won't be easy," Wagnon said. "We know we can't get cocky and we can't let it get in our head. We have to go into each game knowing it's the one game we focus on.

"Now it's just one more game. We have to focus on that and the little things that will lead us to the big things."

The Spartans, ranked No. 8 in the all-classification national polls, were prepared for Wesleyan to go with a suffocating defensive scheme.

"They came out in a defensive shape, but not in a defensive mentality," GAC head coach Troy Bendickson said. "They pushed us. They were coming. They were firing at us. They were playing high, so they didn't pack it in. To their credit, they just said, straight up, 'Let's play.'

"We knew they would come out with energy and I think our girls, with calmness and precision, made it business as usual. They put the ball on the ground, moved it and got the early goal. Which is what we preach."

Garcia set up Kayla Puzas for a quick strike less than three minutes into the game.

Wesleyan goalkeeper Vivian McCoy made a diving save on a shot from Garcia several minutes later, but Wagnon was there to hammer home the rebound with 32:34 still left in the first half.

At 32:21, Wagnon placed a graceful corner kick into the middle and Garcia's header gave the Spartans a 3-0 lead.

"We love playing off each other with the give-and-go," Wagnon said. "I know I'll always give it to her and she'll give it right back to me."

A nice touch from sophomore Kaitlin Mayer sprung Garcia, who powered a blast into the far corner for a 4-0 lead less than 10 minutes into the game.

Senior Mollie Arrendale and sophomore Katie Irwin also scored before Garcia capped her hat trick with 59 seconds left in the half. The Georgia signee finished with three goals and two assists in GAC's third win over Wesleyan this season.

The sixth-ranked Wolves (6-13-1) were a surprise semifinalist after suffering through a tough regular season. They equaled their win total with three in the playoffs, including an impressive 2-0 victory over Calhoun in the first round.

"I'm really proud of our girls," Wesleyan head coach Lacy Gilbert said. "We've had a ton of injuries this year. We have 12 girls that are underclassmen. We graduated 10 last year. So it's a totally different team and I'm proud of them for working to get here.

"I would not want to coach any other team. They fight. Even being down 7-0, I felt like a lot of them just kept fighting. Which is all you can ask in a game like that."