FORT VALLEY -- Forward Claire Story scored just 1:18 into the second half Thursday, then she spent the rest of the match making the goal stand up with the Peach County defense in a 1-0 victory over Islands in the GHSA Class AAA girls soccer playoffs.
“She’s a multi-tool player who’ll wind up about anywhere for us,” Peach County head coach David Langley said. “She brings some speed to that position in the defense we felt we needed.”
The wing forward knocked home a bouncing ball just a few steps from the goal off a corner kick to put the Trojans (13-3-4) ahead. She then moved to the center of the back line to help thwart the Sharks’ attempts for an equalizer.
Islands (8-7) had a handful of good scoring chances in the final 25 minutes, including two off corner kicks at the 73- and 78-minute marks. The Sharks, however, failed to convert any, allowing the Trojans to advance to Tuesday’s second round at home against Dawson County, a 1-0 winner over Morgan County.
“Our defense was there when we needed it,” Langley said.
So was Lady Luck.
Peach County, the Region 2-AAA champion, got a break on the final threat when a bouncing ball off a corner kick came out of a pocket of players in the box and headed toward the net. A defender put her hands on it -- but the play escaped the eyes of the referee, much to the dismay of the disgruntled Sharks.
Islands wasn’t as lucky on the corner Story knocked home. Diamond Clark sent the inbounds into the box, where Story missed on a header with the ball falling at the center of a group of players in the goal mouth.
Story was able to get her foot on the ball first, and with goalkeeper Marissa Bodenrader out of position, the ball rolled into the net.
“Nothing aggravates a coach more than getting scored on a set piece,” Langley said. “That’s why we work so hard to score on them and harder to defend them.”
Before that, Islands controlled the first half, but Peach County keeper Natalie McEver was equal to the challenge. McEver had five of her eight saves in the first half, when the Sharks outshot the Trojans 7-2.
“We knew they were a good team,” Langley said. “That Savannah region is a tough one in soccer. Those seeds are just paper.
“We made some adjustments at halftime and stepped up the defense, and it made a difference.”