Less than three minutes into the game, Green Hope saw one of its top streaks end.
After 11 straight shutouts, the Falcons gave up a goal to Millbrook’s Alexis Pendergraft, who collected a loose ball off a scrum and deep free kick by Jackie Stroud.
That awakened the nation’s top-ranked team, which allowed it to keep another streak going – its 23-game winning streak.
Green Hope quickly took control of the game and rolled to a 5-1 victory against the visitors, which places the Falcons in this weekend’s fourth round.
“We kind of needed that wake-up call,” said Green Hope coach Bobby Peterson. “We’ve been kind of going through the beginning of games and not coming out as razor-sharp as we should have. That goal made us realize that we needed to get our stuff going, and they really did pick it up after that point. In some ways, it was a blessing in disguise.”
From that point on, the Wildcats had trouble threatening the Green Hope goal, where keeper Lisa Armstrong made five saves.
“In the end, it was helpful that we had a goal scored on us because it woke us up so much,” said defender Sydney Curtis. “A little bit of you deflates and you’re like ‘Oh my gosh.’ And (you see) the state championship (chances) getting smaller.”
Also helping Green Hope was a quick red card given to Millbrook goalkeeper Anna Sheldon. In the sixth minute, the sophomore used her hands to stop a shot outside of the 18-yard box – an automatic red given its deliberate stopping of a scoring chance in that area. Green Hope had a one-player advantage for the rest of the game.
But many Green Hope players were unaware what had happened – a credit to the Wildcats (20-3) and backup goalkeeper Julia Maron, who made six saves including a penalty kick.
“It was a little bit of a perfect storm there. The keeper got caught out in no-man’s land and she second-guessed herself and then reacted – and that’s what goalkeepers do. They save with their hands,” said Millbrook coach Matt Edwards. “(Green Hope) is already so good and so organized, so when you’re at more of a disadvantage, you put yourself in a tough spot.”
But as Edwards noted, the tying and go-ahead goals by Green Hope came on even terms as the Falcons capitalized on two Alexis Shaffer corner kicks.
The first was pushed across the mouth of the goal by Curtis in the 14th minute, and the next was scored by Addie Jeffs in the 33rd.
“There’s nothing I love more than corner kick goals,” Peterson said.