Dawson County freshman student-athlete Harper Dussouy is no stranger to the rigors of high school sports, having put in plenty of miles for the varsity cross country team earlier this school year.
More recently, the speedster found herself as the focal point of a team sport during the girls soccer team’s first regular season match of the season — a visit to Chestatee on Tuesday, Jan. 31.
Dussouy used her endurance to traverse up and down the right side of the pitch for the Lady Tigers, helping create opportunities and apply pressure on defenders.
Eventually, she and the team’s efforts broke through Chestatee’s defense, with Dussouy scoring twice en route to a 3-0 victory.
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Her first goal began with her dribbling past defenders down the right side, finding herself just a few yards near the goal but also at a tight angle. Despite the difficulty of her shot, it proved to be too strong for the goalkeeper to reach.
Dussouy later took advantage of a defensive error, taking her time and curling in a shot.
Head coach Chess Hamby certainly took notice of her contributions.
“She creates mismatches, and when you put her out in space she’s pretty good with the ball,” Hamby said. “She creates opportunities for herself and other people around her.”
The Lady Tigers took the momentum of the first match into the home opener Friday night, slashing through North Murray 6-2 — with a hat trick by sophomore Melodie Martin and additional goals from Dussouy, Elena Nelson and Keyli Velasquez.
The Lady Tigers began the season with a 2-0 scrimmage loss to Cartersville, playing well all around in the first half before Cartersville found a pair of second-half goals to win.
But against Chestatee and North Murray, the Lady Tigers were locked in for the whole matches — with the midfielders controlling the tempo and giving Dawson the vast majority of possession.
Nelson, Madeline Clifford and Daisy Vargas Sanchez were all critical in helping kickstart offensive possessions, feeding the ball out into space for Dussouy and others.
One of those players who benefitted from the midfield’s efficiency was forward Hayden Hand, who came off the bench to score the third goal of the game against Chestatee.
Her own unique spark provided an important source of depth for a team that played with an aggressive approach.
Hamby enjoyed seeing the team’s overall progress between the scrimmage game and the season opener. In just two regular season games this year, the Lady Tigers have nearly matched their entire goal total from last season — further cementing the improvements.
“I was very pleased with the way they responded after Friday night,” Hamby said. “I asked them to take that [loss] with them and let it burn a little bit. We challenged them this week…and I think that made a big difference tonight.”
The boys team went into Tuesday’s match coming off a resilient 2-2 draw in their scrimmage against Cartersville.
Sheppard Kohler scored both goals for the Tigers — finding the net within two minutes of each Cartersville goal.
But the positive counterattacks Dawson displayed in the scrimmage were absent against a much-improved Chestatee side.
The opening 30 minutes initially showed the team’s defensive resolve, but a 50/50 penalty awarded to Chestatee put the hosts in front.
Goalkeeper Bryce Beach had an important role in keeping the Tigers in the game early, launching himself at multiple shots.
Just before halftime, the War Eagles doubled their advantage and would not be stopped for the remainder of the match, eventually winning 8-0.
For head coach Patrick Muenchen, it is important that the team not get down on themselves when faced with difficult circumstances.
“I think once [Chestatee] started putting a couple goals in, we got very discouraged,” Muenchen said. "I’m hoping we’re going to use this…to be more intentional and play faster. We’ve got to communicate.”
The Tigers had an improved performance against North Murray, with Emmanuel Lopez scoring on a bending 30-yard free kick in a 2-1 loss.
Dawson County’s soccer teams visited East Forsyth on Tuesday, Feb. 7, with that game falling after the DCN print deadline. They both return home to host Franklin County in Friday, Feb. 10.