MACON -- Malone Slappey is the oldest of her family's four children, so she's used to be lost in the shuffle
Deerfield-Windsor head coach Aly Joslin spent the last few days preparing for Thursday's GISA Class AAA girls soccer semifinal rematch with Stratford by devising a game plan around neutralizing the Hale sisters, Elizabeth Fuller and Haley Tidwell.
But it was Slappey that spurred the Eaglettes' 5-0 victory at Spencer Frank Hays Field. The sophomore scored twice and added an assist as Stratford cruised to its 15th shutout of the season and into the title game.
"You take one option away and we have three others," Stratford head coach James Jordan said. "We are not about one player."
Stratford (21-0-1) will play for its 13th girls soccer state championship against Mount de Sales at 5 p.m. Saturday, while DWS heads home for the second year in a row at the hands of Stratford. The Lady Knights lost last year in the Elite 8 round.
After a one-hour delay due to a referee scheduling error, the Eaglettes were in attack mode from the onset. Stratford emphasized ball possession and took 19 first-half shots, leaving Deerfield in a defensive posture that lasted the entire game. The Lady Knights did not even attempt a shot on goal in the first half.
Deerfield-Windsor (13-5-1) utilized a 4-5-1 scheme defensively in an attempt to disrupt Stratford's Katie Hale. She still found a way to jump-start the Eaglettes' offense with three assists.
Allie Hale, Stratford's scoring leader, gave her team a 1-0 lead in the game's seventh minute off a brilliant crossing pass from the right wing by Tidwell. The assist, Tidwell's 28th of the season, vaulted the sophomore into second place on the school's all-time assists list.
Fuller scored her 44th goal of the season in the 18th minute of the first half, with an assist from Slappey, for a 2-0 advantage.
Slappey's two goals were mirror images of each other. Katie Hale sent in pinpoint through balls and Slappey outraced the Lady Knights' defense before slipping identical shots past Deerfield-Windsor's heralded goalkeeper Katie Williams.
"Both were good balls by Katie that allowed me to get one-on-one with the keeper," Slappey said. "We knew we'd get those opportunities because they play a high-line defense."
Allie Hale capped the scoring in the 17th minute of the second half, before Stratford sent in the reserves.
"We played at a high tempo, and at the same time in a relaxed manner, which is hard to achieve," Jordan said.