Union Grove defender Dominique Fletcher (right) tries to beat Lovejoy forward Cheyna Williams to the ball in the Lady Wolverines 4-2 victory over the Lady Wildcats on Wednesday in the first round of the Class AAAA playoffs.
Union Grove’s girls soccer team entered Wednesday’s first round game in the Class AAAA playoffs at Lovejoy in the most unfamiliar of circumstances — a No. 4 seeded team, on the road and coming off consecutive losses for the first time in four years.
Even in the minds of Lady Wolverines players, who went undefeated during the regular season and came in ranked No. 7 in the state, there was some doubt about their chances against a Lovejoy team featuring three college signees.
But Union Grove put those doubts to rest quickly.
The Lady Wolverines scored three first-half goals and never looked back in a 4-2 victory. They’ll play North Paulding, a 2-1 winner over Chamblee, on the road May 9.
“They played well,” Union Grove coach Cody Guined said, “and playing well was the goal.”
Lovejoy (13-2-0) confirmed Union Grove’s fears early on. The Lady Wildcats went up 1-0 minutes into the game on a goal by Cheyna Williams, a Vanderbilt signee.
But Union Grove (15-2-1) responded. Scoreless in its past three games, each in the Region 3-AAAA playoffs, the Lady Wolverines ended that streak in the 28th minute on a header by Danielle Gardner off a corner kick.
Ashley Nagy followed soon after, sending a powerful shot from 25 yards out right below the goal’s crossbar. Ten minutes later, Nikki LeFevre scored off a corner kick, and Union Grove was in control.
Shannon Pennington added a goal in the 63rd minute to the Lady Wolverines up 4-1.
The rest of Union Grove’s effort was concentrated on minimizing the damage by Williams and Georgia Southern signee Abria Allen. Both scored — Allen scored on a breakaway in the 76th minute for the game’s final margin — but the Lady Wolverines largely succeeded.
Williams posed the biggest threat and had chances — like a free kick in the 33rd minute that was just high, or a one-on-one with Union Grove goalkeeper Michaela Gardner in the 57th minute that sailed above the goal, or a dangerous shot in the 59th minute that Gardner just tipped.
“If I could describe her in one word, it would be fast,” Guined said. “She is unbelievable. I understand why she is going to Vanderbilt. Very smart player. Not just fast, but agile. The whole thing. ... I just can’t believe how fast that girl was.”
But Union Grove held Williams to one goal, not by assigning several defenders to cover her or any sophisticated tactics. The Lady Wolverines knew devoting too much attention to Williams would create opportunities for Allen.
“If we started marking [Williams] then we knew [Allen] would start creeping up,” Guined said. “The main thing was the defense stayed tight. The defense dropped back, not getting sucked in by one player so that another one could play around her.”