In Tuesday’s Class AAAAAA semifinal — back on the same field as that last meeting — the Lady Trojans played as if they had a score to settle, dominating possession in the first half and getting enough separation to hold off a comeback and win 13-11.
“It was a huge, huge monkey off our back, a huge one,” Lassiter coach Faith Harmeyer said. “We just played (Tuesday). In the first game we played (against Walton), we did nothing. It was painful to watch. I never seen a whole group of kids not play all at one time. So, it was a huge monkey off. We worked real hard upping on our intensity after that game and just played the way we can play.”
Lassiter (14-5-1) will play another Area 2AAAAAA rival in Saturday’s championship game, traveling to face a Milton team that has won seven state championships in the last eight seasons. The Lady Trojans last played for a state title in 2010, losing to Milton.
Walton (17-2-1) lost for the first time since Milton beat it 19-11 on Feb. 28.
With its lopsided loss to the Lady Raiders on its mind, Lassiter won nearly all of its draws in the opening 25 minutes and capitalized on most of its scoring opportunities.
“That’s what it’s all about, those draws and the possession of the ball,” Harmeyer said. “We talked about that a lot, hustling to the ball. We concentrated on that at practices, too.”
Johnna Fusco and Cydney Tutchton were both active early in the first half and finished the game with five goals each. Fusco and her sister, Alex, both had two assists, while Mary Carter Putman added a goal.
Lassiter went on a tear after Walton’s Maddie Weiss scored on a Sophia Watkins assist, cutting the lead to 4-2. The Lady Trojans scored six unanswered goals as a result of winning draws, capped by an unassisted Johnna Fusco goal just outside the crease with 5:53 left.
Walton appeared to be just as stunned in the first half as it was when it beat Lassiter three weeks ago, with the Lady Trojans taking charge of the draws and building a hefty lead.
“Tough day to have a bad half,” Walton coach Mandy Ryan said.
The first half did end with some promise for Walton. The Lady Raiders capitalized with three straight goals — two by Katelyn Spencer — and cut the lead to 10-5 at the break.
They carried that momentum into the second half with three unanswered goals and put Lassiter on its heels. Annie Poling, who finished with three goals to lead the Lady Raiders, scored two of them, while Erin McBride finished the other one.
“We weren’t getting back on defense,” Harmeyer said. “We got tired, and when we stop hustling, we get sloppy.”
Lassiter also shifted two midfielders to the back to slow down the Walton attack.
The momentum switched back to Lassiter’s favor with just less than 15 minutes left to play. Johnna Fusco ended a scoring drought of more than 10 minutes by scooping up a loose ball 20 yards from the goal and running it in.
“I definitely felt it was a turning point for my team and my goal was to lead them and, hopefully, they follow,” Fusco said. “It gave us a lead a little more and set the tone for my team.”
Kylie Holthaus scored on a free shot to keep Walton alive, but Fusco scored again to keep Lassiter ahead by three before Tutchton scored on a free shot to give the Lady Trojans even more breathing room.
In the last 4 minutes of play, Lassiter chewed clock by maintaining possession.
For Walton, Hunter Corvin scored two goals, while Lizzie Misel had two assists. Watkins’ only goal came with 58 seconds in the game, bringing the Lady Raiders within two goals.