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Gunderson leads Patriots into Elite 8

— On to the Elite 8. Arielle Gunderson scored a goal and assisted on another as the Heritage girl’s soccer team defeated Lee County, 2-1 in the second round of the Class AAAA state playoffs.

The No. 9 Patriots (16-3-1) will play Saturday at No. 2 McIntosh with a spot in the state final four on the line.

“Absolutely it’s a big day,” said Heritage coach Chad Suddeth. “That’s been our goal all season is to make a deeper run in the playoffs, and we’ve put ourselves in that position. Very proud of the girls.”

Mid-way through the first half, Gunderson, a University of Florida signee, found Kourtney Kelly with a crossing pass and Kelley scored to put Heritage up 1-0. With three minutes until halftime, Gunderson scored unassisted to give the Patriots a two-goal lead.

“Huge goal by Arielle…three minutes before halftime,” Suddeth said.

Lee County, which had its 10-game unbeaten streak snapped, cut the deficit in half with a goal five minutes into the second half, but the Heritage defense didn’t allow anything else. Now, it’s off to Peachtree City for a match up with a McIntosh team that has lost just two games.

“It wasn’t our cleanest effort, but we got the result and that’s all that maters,” said Suddeth. “There’s eight teams left and we’re privileged to be one of them. Being in the quarterfinals is something special. We’ll be playing a powerhouse, but that’s really nothing new for us. We look forward to the challenge, I know my girls will be up for it.”

With the win Wednesday, Heritage became just the second team in the program’s history to win 16 games.

“Good season, “said Suddeth. “So far.”