NORCROSS — There is an old adage in sports that the difference between victory and defeat is a matter of inches. On Wednesday night that adage proved prophetic for the Norcross girls soccer team.
In their first playoff appearance in seven years, the Blue Devils just missed on several scoring chances and fell to visiting Milton 2-0 on a damp night in Norcross.
The game turned in the closing moments of the first half. Nursing a 1-0 lead under a heavy Norcross assault, Milton seized control in the frantic final seconds.
With the Blue Devils on the attack, Kaitlin Mayer just missed a tying goal when she rocketed a left-footed shot that rang off the cross-bar with 31 seconds left in the half.
Milton quickly turned the field, and moments later a loose ball found the foot of Sanna Levine who beat a diving Kennedy White with 0.8 seconds remaining to extend the Eagles lead to 2-0 at half.
“That totally changed the game,” Norcross head coach Kristina Marchman said of the pivotal series of events. “I thought the ball hit the net but apparently it didn’t. But we came out after half and played a better game.”
Norcross controlled the action early. With just over seven minutes elapsed a header by Kara Henderson on a perfectly placed free kick by Jordan Lewter sailed just wide to thwart an early Blue Devils threat.
After Samantha Craig gave the Eagles the lead on a goal with 25:18 remaining in the half, Milton keeper Jessica Stutler snared a header by Norcross’s Nicki Willis to preserve the advantage.
Minutes later a shot by Norcross forward Maddie Stephen sailed just wide as the Blue Devils again missed a prime scoring opportunity.
“Soccer is a cruel game in that respect,” Marchman said. “We dominated possession but couldn’t finish. We had chances.”
With Milton protecting the lead, Norcross was unable to mount a sustained threat in the second half. The Blue Devils finished the season 11-6 overall after finishing 2nd in Region 7-AAAAAA.
“I’m proud of the team,” Marchman said. “I believed in them from the beginning. They played great and I just wish we could have gone further.”