Wolfpack advance to first semifinals

Michael Holahan/Staff
The Greenbrier soccer team erupts in cheers after they defeated North Gwinnett in sudden death.

In the 30 yards it took Elizabeth Zaffino to walk to the spot where she would boot the penalty kick that put Greenbrier into its first girls soccer state semifinal, she had plenty of time to think.

Her mind raced. She said she didn't know what to think, only what not to think.

"I didn't want to look at anyone, because I knew I would get emotional," she said. "(Teammates) were already crying because we had made it this far."

Her mind clear, Zaffino guided the ball into the right side of the goal -- the North Gwinnett goalkeeper barely moved -- for a goal that gave Greenbrier a 4-3 shootout win over the Bulldogs after the game ended in a 2-2 tie. The Wolfpack play at No. 1 Parkview on Tuesday night.

Zaffino's kick was the final moment of a wildly entertaining game that had the Wolfpack breathlessly defending its goal for the final 50 minutes, more than 30 of which it played without coach Alex Heider.

Heider was ejected with 20:07 remaining in the second half and the score tied at 2. He received his second yellow card for arguing with the center official. Assistant coach Donny Rogers took over for the rest of the game.

Greenbrier, in its first season in Class AAAAA and making its fourth trip to the state quarterfinals, held leads of 1-0 and 2-1. It won primarily because it refused to surrender multiple second-half goals facing relentless pressure from North Gwinnett.

Hillary Wilson and Stormi Childs scored for the Wolfpack in regulation. Neither team pressed forward much in the 10-minute overtime period, which meant the result would be decided based on who made the most of five penalty kicks.

Both teams converted their first kick and missed their second. The turning point came when Greenbrier goalkeeper Paige Eber saved the Bulldogs' third attempt.

Brittaney Borror, Libby Dalis and Childs all converted penalty kicks for the Wolfpack. As Zaffino approached the final kick, the rest of the Wolfpack collapsed in a dogpile at midfield.

"We were so concentrated and focused," Dalis said.

She blasted the ball to the right side, just like she said she did every day after practice when the team practices penalty kicks.

"She came up to me after the game and told me 'thanks'," Heider said. "I said: 'thank you.' I appreciated her saying she knew I had confidence in her."

Reach Matt Middleton at (706) 823-3425 or matt.middleton@augustachronicle.com.

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