GPS soccer player Kennedy Ball provided hard-earned assists Wednesday night during a 4-0 victory at archrival Baylor in front of a packed house.
While the host Lady Red Raiders won time of possession in the first half and denied the Bruisers' attack quite often with steals, Ball found a way to make plays. She created space quickly on the right sideline and sent a cross directly to the feet of fellow freshman Hayden Wise, who scored the first goal in the 35th minute.
Ball also helped the Bruisers strike for a second goal as she broke away from a defender to draw the Baylor keeper out of the net and sent a perfect pass across the left of the box to the far post, where junior Ashley Grant put it away in the 47th minute.
"Kennedy is a natural athlete with great vision and has such a nice touch on the ball," GPS coach Patrick Winecoff said. "She can create in just an instant. She kind of plays like a point guard in a lot of ways. She gets after it defensively, too."
Grant and Wise scored twice apiece for GPS (13-2, 2-0 Division II-AA East Region), which is trying to repeat as state champion after beating Father Ryan in last year's title game.
Grant showed great control and speed down the left sideline as she raced 30 yards to the net with defenders in close to boom her 18th team-leading goal of the season in the 70th minute. Just minutes later, she embraced GPS fans who rushed the field after the final whistle.
"It's a rush," Grant said. "GPS is such a supportive community, and so is McCallie. To score knowing all your friends are watching, there is not a better feeling. It's kind of like a state final. With the talent we have and leadership, I feel like we are on a path where we are capable of a doing a repeat."
There was a buzz throughout the match from a crowd that filled the bleachers and spilled onto the grass, and Baylor played up to its rivals in the first half.
Lady Raiders sophomore Melissa Oliveira displayed fancy footwork in the box as she shed defenders before a diving stop from GPS keeper Alie Williams prevented a score in the 20th minute.
Baylor (6-6-3, 1-2) received stellar defense from senior Gracie Spurling, and freshman keeper Addison Yelton also stood out in the first half, which she ended with a diving save.
GPS junior Sydney Morris was all over the field defensively, though, and helped secure the shutout with senior captains Alex Magill and Meg Priest.
"We are really lucky to have a group that wants to work hard and win," Priest said. "All of our players work their tails off. We get down to business."