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DULUTH — As West Forsyth’s championship-clinching penalty kick went through the net, Buford senior goalkeeper Alina Pope walked beyond the left goalpost and squatted.

Some thoughts of disbelief raced through her head. She cried. She didn’t move for nearly a minute.

Buford (20-1-1) dropped a chance at its first-ever state championship title in program history to West Forsyth (21-0-2) in penalty kicks, 1(7)-1(6). West Forsyth claimed its third state title in four seasons.

“I thought we controlled most of the game, especially in the second half and in both overtimes,” Buford head coach Megan Hill, dejected and requesting more time before speaking with a group of three reporters including The North Gwinnett Voice after losing Friday. “We told the girls it will only come down to if you can finish. We were not there at times where we needed to be there.”

Friday created a bit of deja vu for Buford with a different result. The opposing team scored first, Buford responded and a deadlocked game went to penalty kicks. Albeit, against West Forsyth, each of the goals came in the first half.

The opposing Wolverines scored four minutes into regulation after a corner kick. West Forsyth found gold on the set piece after a ball got by Pope. Hill added that some of the Buford teammates thought Pope had corralled it, but she hadn’t.

Later in the first half, Buford continued its mastery of set pieces, following the Pope-to-Sophia Martelli connection from a week ago against Walton. Senior Abby Kilman found Sabrie Vargas from distance for a goal. Unfortunately for Buford, it became its only conversion at goal.

As Hill said, Buford dominated possession in its half and had many chances to take the lead. Buford indicated that as an area of needed improvement dating back to the first-round playoff win over Wheeler, and an inability to convert bit the Wolves against West Forsyth.

Buford had a slew of opportunities in the second half, including another free kick from Kilman at a range of 35 yards out. The chance fell short. Buford had four shots on target in the first overtime, and none of them found net.

“This season we won as a team and lost a team,” Hill said.

West Forsyth goalkeeper Adelei Utz had to make plenty of saves to keep her team in contention. Buford had a clear advantage through the first 100 minutes of play, but entering penalty kicks which ended up being sudden death, West Forsyth had new life.

“I am so confident in this team in penalty kicks,” West Forsyth midfielder Sophia McNabb said at the team’s bench before the sudden death period began.

Her manifestation came to fruition. On Buford’s eighth kick, Utz slid to the left and saved it. The Wolverines hit seven consecutive free kicks, the last one sliding by Pope, to celebrate a title.

“It’s basically a coin toss. It’s basically heads or tails when it comes to PKs, especially when you get into eight or nine (rounds),” Hill said.

FEATURED PHOTO: Courtesy of David McGregor

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