High school soccer playoffs: Northwest girls fall to last year's state finalist North Oconee; State power Cherokee Bluff drops Southeast 2-0

Apr. 25—TUNNEL HILL — In the second round of the Class 4A girls soccer playoffs, Northwest Whitfield drew the second seed in Region 8-4A.

Unfortunately for the Lady Bruins, that second-seeded team also happened to be the second-place finisher in last year's state playoffs.

2023 Class 4A runner-up North Oconee scored early and smothered late on the way to a 2-0 win over Northwest Whitfield, ending the Lady Bruins' season after two playoff rounds.

North Oconee (12-4-1) moves on to the state quarterfinals, while Northwest ends the season at 14-4-1 and with the Region 7-4A championship.

After a 10-0 victory for Northwest in the first round over Clarkston — a game that was ended due to the mercy rule early in the second half — the increased challenge brought by the second round opponent was immediately apparent.

Where Northwest keeper Briar Hall barely had to touch the ball in the blowout win over Clarkston, North Oconee got a shot in on Hall just seconds into Thursday's game.

The aggressive offense of North Oconee needed just over four minutes to get a goal on the scoreboard.

A well-placed lead pass for North Oconee's Ansleigh Prell led Prell ahead of the defense in an attacking run to the left of the net. Prell collected the ball and fired a shot, hitting the opposite corner despite a tight angle. The visiting Titans celebrated a goal at the 35:54 mark of the first half.

Northwest didn't get many attacking runs past a strong midfield defense of North Oconee, which swiped passes and stole possessions. The Lady Bruins finally shook free to get an attack down the sideline with 22 minutes left in the first, but Lorelei Ewton's center pass was intercepted by the North Oconee keeper.

The Titans made it 2-0 with 13:10 left in the first.

Northwest attempted to clear the ball out of the attacking end for North Oconee, but a deflection sent the ball to Prell out in front of the net. Prell made a fake-out move to freeze the Northwest defender standing in her way, then sidestepped and fired the ball in for her second goal.

Northwest's Yulianna Herrada got a shot on goal for the Lady Bruins on a long shot, but it was stopped. Hall then kept the deficit to 2-0 with a save on another rocketed North Oconee shot late in the first.

The best Northwest chance for a goal came with under a minute left in the first. Lexi Lyon scorched a shot that hit the crossbar and went down. The North Oconee keeper managed to keep the ball out of the net.

The second half passed without Northwest getting many good looks at the goal, as North Oconee locked down on defense with the 2-0 lead.

Also in high school soccer playoff action Thursday:

Cherokee Bluff 2, Southeast Whitfield 0

Just like Northwest Whitfield, Southeast Whitfield ran into tough competition in the second round of the Class 4A girls playoffs, falling to Region 8-4A champion Cherokee Bluff 2-0 to end the season.

Cherokee Bluff was the region champion out of the region that also included last year's runner-up North Oconee.

Southeast held Cherokee Bluff to two goals, the fewest in a Cherokee Bluff win this season.

Cherokee Bluff (16-4) moves on to the Class 4A quarterfinals, while Southeast ends the year 11-4-1.