SUWANEE — As much as coaches want to win every game, region games take on obvious added importance, especially region openers.
So after her team struggled in the first half of its Region 6-AAAAAAA opener against Collins Hill, Peachtree Ridge girls soccer coach Megan Hill was pleased and relieved to see her Lions play with a little more sense of urgency in the second half.
After tying the game late in the first half, Addison Neel delivered a goal in the game’s 64th minute that proved decisive in the No. 3 state-ranked Lions’ 2-1 win over the Eagles on Tuesday night at Collins Hill Community Stadium.
The win moved Peachtree Ridge to 8-1 overall on the season, but more importantly to Hill — her team is 1-0 in region play.
“I think (the players) finally realized that this is a game that matters,” Hill said. “We play 12 non-region games and six region games, so we continue to urge to them (that) this is a game that matters. I think it took them 40 minutes to realize that. I think we knocked the ball around pretty well in the beginning of the game, but closer to the end of it, we realized … if we don’t win region, things start going downhill from here.”
Early on, it was Collins Hill (3-6, 0-1) playing with seemingly more of a sense of urgency, and it took just under 11 minutes after the opening kickoff, that effort paid off in a goal.
Tamia Jones began and ended a well-executed give-and-go play with Shea Bonacci, with the junior midfielder finishing the sequence with a shot from the penalty kick dot that put the Eagles up 1-0 with 29:03 left in the first half.
The goal, just the fourth by a Peachtree Ridge opponent all season, not only put the Lions in a position they haven’t been in much so far this season, not just by trailing, but simply by being scored upon.
It almost got worse, as Natalie Alamri had two quality scoring opportunities in the following 24 minutes only to come up empty, first sending a left-to-right diagonal shot wide of the back post in the 25th minute before being stopped on another shot inside the penalty area 10 minutes later by Peachtree Ridge goalkeeper Annika Lucisano.
But things changed with time running out in the first half when Daniela Henriquez sent a long through ball down the middle of the field into the penalty area that was blocked by a Collins Hill defender.
Despite the heads up defensive play, the ball bounced right to Sydney Obimpeh, who collected the rebound and hammered it home to with 1:20 left in the half to send Peachtree Ridge into the intermission tied at 1-all.
More importantly, it sent the Lions into the break with momentum.
“That took the wind out of our sails a little bit,” Collins Hill coach Jeff Tinklepaugh said. “A minute and (a half) left in the half, and we give up a goal. That took the wind out of us.”
Still, the Eagles made sure it would take the Lions awhile to cash in on holding the territorial advantage much of the second half thanks to some timely defense, including a big save by goalkeeper Alli Lester, who robbed Maddy Bondon from point blank range after she weaved through the Collins Hill defense in the 61st minute.
But Peachtree Ridge finally cashed in as time ran down, with Kendall Hoskins corralling the ball on the right wing and sending a cross into the penalty area, where Neel one-touched it into the back of the net to put the Lions up to stay at 2-1 with 16:18 remaining.