Polk County's Elena Carroll prepares to drive home the first of her two goals in Monday's playoff win

In the opening minutes of Polk County’s first-round playoff game Monday against Mountain Heritage, the Wolverines struggled to break through. The Wolverines peppered the Cougars’ goal, but couldn’t find the net.

Shots sailed wide. Shots sailed high. The Mountain Heritage keeper controlled a couple. Some chances were just barely missed.

But when Polk County finally broke through in the 19th minute, they broke through in a big way.

The Wolverines scored four goals in some eight minutes midway through the first half to blow the game open on the way to a 5-1 win and earned the right to host a second-round match on Thursday.

“All season, we haven’t been the most efficient,” Wolverines’ coach Lennox Charles said. “But we did a good enough job today getting chances in.”

The Wolverines (12-4-3) will host Gray Stone Day (12-4-2) in the second round. The Knights defeated Elkin 4-1 in their first-round match.

Caroline Taylor started the barrage with a perfectly-placed corner that Jessica Baird banged home with 19:07 to play in the first half. That was followed quickly by Elena Carroll with her first goal of the evening with 15:42 left in the half, and again at 13:40 when Charley Dusenbury corralled a free ball in the box and converted.

Carroll’s second goal of the night was a beauty, as she floated a shot from the left corner of the box to the right post, caroming the shot softly in and giving the Wolverines a 4-0 lead with 11:08 left in the half.

Polk County defender Natalie Serrano thwarts a charge from Mountain Heritage’s Eily Rule during the first half of Monday’s match

Polk County’s success came at least partially thanks to the return of Gabby Savaia. Out briefly with an injury, Savaia returned on Monday night and gave the Wolverines an immediate boost. The pace in the Polk County end seemed to quicken, and shots began finding their way home.

“She adds that speed and aggression up there,” Charles said of Savaia’s return. “We have to change a little bit on offense without her, and actually today against this team it helped us. They play so deep so you don’t get in behind them that you have to play your feet, and that’s what we’ve had to do the last couple of games.

“But there’s a different gear to Gabby. And you can’t coach it. You either have it or you don’t and she does.”

Charles wanted to see killer instinct from his team, and urged them to press for another goal early in the second half to end the game.He wanted to see a score in the first 10 minutes.

It took a little less than three. Kylie Lewis placed a beautiful pass at the feet of Savaia, and she rifled home a pretty shot for a 5-0 lead. Mountain Heritage (4-12-1) got a late goal from Eva Soto to account for the final score.