GHSA Girls Soccer
Newnan wins big, but lose star defender to injury
by Chris Goltermann
With the exception of creating genetic clones or dressing players in bubble wrap, there’s not much Newnan girls head soccer coach Frankey Henderson can do these days to keep a full lineup on the field.
On a night where the Lady Cougars reaped the benefits of this year’s Region 3-AAAAAA championship with a 10-0 victory at Drake Stadium over Lovejoy to reach the Sweet 16, it was another painful reminder of Newnan’s tough luck off the field that soured a first-round victory.
Ahead 4-0 early in the second half, the Lady Cougars lost star defender and sophomore sweeper Anna Lawrence to a left-knee injury on a collision near midfield during a challenge with a Lady Wildcat player and had to be helped off the field by Henderson and Newnan trainer James “Radar” Brantley.
“She said she heard a ‘pop,’” said Henderson of Lawrence, who suffered a torn ACL in her right knee earlier in her career. “It could be a tear. She’ll have it looked at [this] morning.”
In addition to awaiting Lawrence’s prognosis, Newnan will now have a week to prepare for Tuesday’s second-round match against either Region 4-AAAAAA runner-up Hillgrove, which defeated Camden County 3-0.
Already playing without junior Rebecca Turner and with keeper Rebecca Whitlock returning in net for the first time in five games after an injury, Henderson shuffled the lineup again while playing three forwards up top.
“We haven’t played at full strength the entire season,” Henderson said.
To their credit, the Lady Cougars took care of business by scoring six times in the second half while slowly gaining momentum up front.
After losing Lawrence, a back line including junior Lauren Hovey and Morgan Robeson held strong.
Sophomore Hannah Thomas, who has missed a dozen games, scored four goals and added an assist while senior Ivy Batten also had a hat-trick. Julie Whatley opened the scoring for Newnan and added two assists while freshman Caroline Thomas assisted on a pair of goals.
“We started three up front and that’s different for us. I think it took some time for them to adjust to that and figure things out,” Henderson said.
Despite the additional striker, it took the Lady Cougars 14 minutes to jump ahead 2-0 against a scrappy Lovejoy team that found itself pinned in its own zone for nearly the entire 80 minutes.
The Lady Wildcats’ best chance on Whitlock came minutes after Lawrence left the field on a run that ended with a shot being fired into the right-outer portion of the net and out of bounds.
Otherwise, Newnan’s senior keeper spent a lot of time watching her teammates pick up steam on the other end of the field.
Goals two and three came just under three minutes apart in the first half with Batten taking a pass from senior Cameron Whitehead off right wing that snuck through two Lovejoy defenders and right to the Lady Cougar striker’s foot for a well-timed finish.
Hannah Thomas then found Batten for a header to push a 3-0 advantage.
Newnan’s final goal of the first half in the 26th minute found Hannah on the receiving end of a pass from Caroline also off the right side before knocking a shot in off the far post.
It was the first of four for Hannah, who took advantage of rebounds to close out her five-point game. A loose ball off a long shot by Whatley popped up to her at the far post for the first of back-to-back goals between the 57th and 58th minutes.
Touches from Morgan Robeson and Whatley then led to another long shot on goal where again Thomas deposited the rebound to go up 6-0 with 27:58 to play.
Newnan put together two more sets of quick strikes to end the game with 2:34 remaining, scoring twice within a four-minute span on goals by Batten and Thomas before senior Cameron Whitehead put together an nice individual effort before a right-footed shot off her instep.