Abby Branham nets the first of four goals as the Lady Bearcats defeat the Ft. Payne Lady Wildcats 4-0 to advance to the second round of the 2018 AHSAA Girls Soccer 6A State Playoffs. (Courtesy Bearcat News Network on Twitter)
CULLMAN – The 6A girls' first round road to the 2018 AHSAA Girls Soccer State Championship took place on the pitch at Oliver Woodard Stadium Friday, and the Cullman Lady Bearcats bested Ft. Payne 4-0, all at the feet of the Abby Branham.
Play was sloppy on both sides as players tried to adjust to the artificial turf. Both teams exchanged giveaways until 12 minutes into the game when Cullman’s Branham took a long pass from Ninfa Moreno but was stopped by Ft. Payne’s goalie.
Moments after the block by Ft. Payne’s goalie, a handball was called against the Lady Wildcats with 28:09 left in first half. Cullman’s Branham stepped up to the penalty kick and calmly tricked the goalie to give the Lady Bearcats a 1-0 lead over Ft. Payne.
The Lady Bearcats' defense stood tall to the challenge at the 14-minute mark of first half when Ft. Payne was awarded a free kick just outside the box. The kick couldn’t make it over the Bearcat wall of defenders, snuffing out an opportunity for an easy goal.
The outcome was a breakaway for the Lady Bearcats with the ball firmly at the feet of Branham as she juked Ft. Payne’s goalie for a beautiful chip shot to put Cullman ahead 2-0, giving Branham her second goal.
The second half was much of the same as Cullman’s Branham pulled in the hat trick with a 20-yard strike with just less than 2 minutes ticked off the clock.
Cullman’s Moreno and Branham hooked up for a little give-and-go action until Branham struck her fourth goal of the game, putting the Lady Bearcats ahead 4-0 with 24 minutes left to play.
Cullman advanced to the next round of play where the Lady Bearcats will face either Athens or Hartselle on May 5 at 5 p.m.
If you’re not able to make it out to the game, be sure to watch it live, courtesy of the Bearcat News Network, on the NFHS Network.
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