Just a year ago, the Dawson County varsity girls soccer team lost 7-1 at home to a solid East Forsyth team that would eventually make the state playoffs.
But this time around, the Lady Tigers conquered the task of facing the Lady Broncos on the road — winning 1-0 in an intense match on Tuesday, Feb. 7.
While Dawson went into Tuesday’s match coming off a six-goal performance, the team’s resolve to maintain a slim lead against a challenging opponent may have been just as indicative of their abilities.
“They definitely rose to the challenge,” head coach Chess Hamby said. “They fought hard [and] kept battling, believing and kept making plays when we needed it.”
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After securing that road win, the Lady Tigers returned home on Friday, Feb. 10, and won their fourth consecutive game — defeating Franklin County 4-0. Hayden Hand and Melodie Martin each had two goals, with Harper Dussouy providing three assists.
The opening 20 minutes of action between Dawson and East Forsyth saw both teams gain possession and take shots at either end — with some of the most physical action happening in the midfield involving Dawson’s Elena Nelson and Daisy Vargas Sanchez.
Eventually, the Lady Tigers broke down the door they had been knocking on, with Dussouy running down the right wing and swinging in a cross that was volleyed into goal by Hand at the back post.
While many players contributed to helping maintain Dawson’s lead throughout the game, the most vital individual proved to be senior goalkeeper Emma Faircloth.
Left, right, or middle, Faircloth dove and stretched every which way to keep the ball out of the net and keep the Lady Tigers in the lead.
Two particular durations of the match — early in the second half and the final few minutes of the game — tested her resolve the most.
The Lady Broncos got out to an aggressive start after halftime, testing Dawson’s defense with quick passing. But Faircloth and the back line held firm for a long period of time.
In the final frantic minutes, Faircloth swatted away multiple shots and sealed the victory for the upstart Lady Tigers.
Later that evening, the boys team played its best defensive first half of the season to that point in a 3-1 loss, facing a technically gifted East Forsyth team coached by Chere’ Thomas — who led South Forsyth to the 2021 7A state championship.
Three days later against Franklin County, the Tigers won their first match 2-1 through an early goal by Jacob Felkai and a penalty kick by Zach Cruz.
During the game against East Forsyth, the Tigers made good account of themselves against a rapidly improving program.
After allowing several Broncos shots early on, the Tigers prevented the hosts from gaining much ground for most of the first half. Goalkeeper Bryce Beach was once again tasked with making several important saves.
An exception to a generally solid first half came on 19 minutes, when an error in midfield allowed East Forsyth to dispossess Dawson and easily score the opening goal.
Less than 10 minutes later, the Tigers responded on a counterattack, with Cruz launching a well-placed long ball in the path of forward Saul Ruiz, who slotted in a tidy goal to put Dawson back on level terms.
Well into the second half, the Tigers were once again keeping up with the Broncos on the defensive end until the hosts scored again following a quickly-taken short throw-in.
East Forsyth — knowing that Dawson expected a longer throw-in — threw it to the nearest player who then quickly turned and took a shot toward the corner of the goal.
Just minutes later, the Tigers nearly tied the game again after a free kick by Emmanuel Lopez narrowly sailed over the crossbar.
A third goal by the Broncos later on sealed victory for the hosts and handed the Tigers a third straight loss.
“We had a couple passes in the middle that we weren’t thinking straight on and those really hurt us,” head coach Patrick Muenchen said. “We’ve come along a great way as far as [being] a passing team, [but] anything that was sent over the top we were holding back on, so I think that’s something we really need to work on.”
The Dawson County soccer teams traveled to Sonoraville on Tuesday, Feb. 14 and will stay on the road to visit Union County on Friday, Feb. 17.