Originally created 05/16/02

Aquinas ousted in semis



When a ball finds the foot of a Lady Hornet, the ball often finds the back of the net.

The Savannah Country Day girls soccer team has made that statement as close to fact as possible during the state Class AA/A playoffs. That's how efficient they've been. Wednesday afternoon at Saunders Field, the Hornets scored three times on its first six shots and four times on only 13 shots during a 4-1 semifinal victory over Aquinas.

A similar offensive effort could secure a home win against Athens Academy, a 4-3 winner over Northgate, Friday in the title match and the program's first state championship. The start time for that match hasn't been determined.

"The amount of time spent on finishing has made a lot of difference," Country Day coach Wayne Aaron said. "And just look at how poised Lexa (Clark), Lizzie (Sprague) and Catherine (Cooper) were up front."

The trio sliced through Aquinas' defense at will, with the help of pinpoint passes from their midfield mates.

Cooper broke the scoreless tie 16:29 before halftime, sliding a shot - the team's second shot of the match -- past Irish goalkeeper Ana Quinones. Then with 2:16 left in the opening half, Sprague's short header, the team's fourth shot, off Mary Gilbert's corner kick gave the Hornets (18-4) a 2-0 lead. Four of her five postseason goals have come on headers.

Country Day's sixth attempt, Sprague's rebound of her own shot, extended the Hornets' advantage to 3-1 just 2:15 into the second half. Then on the team's ninth shot, Cooper capped her two-goal performance by volleying Anna Jarman's cross over Quinones' head with 21:15 left in the match.

"We're shooting very well, something that we weren't doing well in the past," Sprague said. "But we've worked hard at it. - At first, we were a little nervous because we didn't know what to expect. But once we got that first goal, we relaxed."

Country Day finished with only a 13-11 advantage in shots. However, that came about because the Hornets remained patient, picking their spots to attack the Irish defense.

"We stayed with the game plan," Aaron said. "We told the girls, 'If you execute the game plan, you're going to win this."'

Added Cooper, "We started off slowly, but then we started playing as a team."

Meanwhile, Aquinas (15-7) fired several of their shots in the waning minutes, as the Irish desperately tried to get back in the match. The Irish tallied once, on Erin Sullivan's 6-yard shot with 12:48 remaining, and that came against the backup defense. The Irish didn't record a shot until the 25:19 mark of the second half.

"There aren't any weak spots on this team," Sprague said. "That's one thing we have that other teams don't."

Sports reporter Victor Fernandes can be reached at 652-0349 and e-mailed at victorf@savannahnow.com.