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Saturday December 4th, 2021 9:18PM

Girls soccer playoffs: Coach's Corner for strong contingent of area teams

By Jeff Hart Sports Reporter
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A Baker’s Dozen of northeast Georgia area girls soccer teams advanced to the second round of the playoffs spanning seven classifications.

All four area Region 7-3A teams moved on sweeping out Region 6-3A while Region 8-2A and Region 8-4A sent three area teams each. Region 8-4A, however, also pulled the sweep as North Oconee advanced as well.

Second round action is spread from Monday to Thursday with the girls mainly playing on Monday and Wednesday and the boys on Tuesday and Thursday.

The Commerce girls remain undefeated and ranked No. 1 in Class A Public and take on Atlanta Classical Academy at home. The Buford girls (18-0-1) come in ranked second in Class 6A and have won 17 straight heading into a showdown at home against No. 4 Lassiter.

In Class 4A, the Flowery Branch girls are ranked fourth and the Jefferson girls fifth while in Class 3A, Lumpkin County, Cherokee Bluff, and White County are ranked third, fourth, and fifth, respectively, all out of Region 7-3A.

We asked the area coaches how they felt their team was playing going into the Sweet 16 round and what were the keys to moving on.

(Listed in alphabetical order by team. Also, check below for the entire second round schedule for area girls.)


Cherokee Bluff’s Calvin Cook

The Class 3A fourth-ranked Lady Bears (11-3-1) secured their first-ever postseason win, a 6-0 win over Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe, in the first round. Now, they get the ultimate test against unbeaten and No. 1 Westminster (17-0-0) in Atlanta on Tuesday. The Lady Wildcats have not allowed a goal in five straight matches and allowed just six total goals in 2021.

“The team is performing in all three phases at a high level right now. Keeper Avery Fowler continues to be strong in the goal. We are on a three-game winning streak and have only lost one game in two and a half months.  

“But in order to get the win at Westminster we are going to have to out-work our opponent. It’s no secret that (Westminster) is one of the best teams in the state, and our squad is looking forward to the challenge. If you want to be the best, then you have to beat the best.”


Commerce’s Deanna Shaw

The Class A Public No. 1-ranked Lady Tigers (18-0) have been dominating all season allowing just seven goals and pitching 13 shutouts on the season. They had a bye in the first ound and will take on Atlanta Classical Academy at home in the second round.

“Our girls are playing great team soccer right now. We are playing whole team defense led by Abby Tolbert, Carson Hawkins and Kylee Taylor. Our attackers, led by Chloe Diaz, Ivy Tolbert, and Kate Hill, continue to be a force to be reckoned with attacking the ball, maintaining possession and putting the ball in the net. Our strong senior leadership is also an asset.

“The keys for us moving on will be maintaining our speed of play and high pressure, strong defensive work, and sticking to our speed of play.”


Flowery Branch coach Sean Garnett

The Class 4A fourth-ranked Lady Falcons (11-4-1) were impressive in a 9-0 win over Fayette County in the opening round but now will face their sternest test since falling to No. 1 North Oconee in region play earlier in the season.

A trip to No. 2 Marist (14-3-2) awaits and it will be a contrast in wills. The Lady War Eagles have won 8 of 9 and allowed just 6 goals in that span. Branch is averaging just over 6 goals a game.

“The girls continue to improve and are becoming more dynamic in their attack. In order to move into the Elite 8, it is very important that the girls believe in each other and the team.”


Jefferson’s Molly McCarty

The Class 4A fifth-ranked Lady Dragons (12-3) are hitting their stride when it counts most. As the No. 3 seed from Region 8-4A, they were one of just three teams to snag road wins after pummeling Hampton, 7-0.

After a rough stretch allowing nine goals in losses to North Oconee and Flowery Branch, they have gone 3-1 allowing just one goal. They face a huge road challenge in the second round against No. 3 Northwest Whitfield (11-0-3) which has won six straight and given up just two goals during that stretch.

But a tough schedule has prepared them for the playoffs.

“During the regular season, we played three Top 4 teams in the state and we knew those  games were ultimately going to prepare us for the playoffs. Our mentality is we are 1-0 in the playoffs and to take each game as if it is a championship.

“The driving force for our group right now is to not focus on how we started the season but how we are going to finish the season. We have adjusted to being a traveling playoff team in seasons past and that experience should help.”


Lakeview’s Nathan Wallace

The unranked Class A Private Lady Lions (11-5) got a big road win, 6-2, over Mt. Paran in the opening round but now travel to No. 1 Holy Innocents’ (14-1) in the second round.

“Our team is playing with confidence and ready to take on that challenge (of facing the No. 1 team). We've had some tough opponents this year to help us prepare.

“We will need to come out aggressive and play smart soccer. Stopping (Holy Innocents’) forward Caroline Belisle, who has scored over 100 career goals, will be vital for our success. We've got a strong offense and should find some scoring opportunities.” 


Lumpkin County’s Don Brock

The Class 3A third-ranked Lady Indians (12-4-1) also may be peaking at just the right time. They are 5-0-1 over their past 6 matches, all by shutout, and have burned up the nets with 30 goals.

However, the Region 7-3A champions face a Greater Atlanta Christian squad (10-6) they have lost three straight to since 2016 and may also be peaking at just the right time. The Lady Spartans have won five straight, outscoring the opposition 38-1 with four shutouts in that span.

“We are playing our best soccer right now but we must stay focused on playing our game.

“Unfortunately, the first and second rounds often have some of the toughest matchups. GAC will be a challenge, but if we remain focused we can get through.”


North Hall's Alex Wright

The Lady Trojans (8-5) have battled injuries most of the season but pulled the biggest upset in Class 3A as the only No. 4 seed to advance in a 2-0 win over Region 6-3A champion and eighth-ranked Adairsville. Even more impressive, it came on the heels of a three-match losing streak where they had scored just two total goals.

Now, they travel to Stephens County (11-2) a team they beat 2-0 in a scrimmage to begin the season. But Wright says that was then, this is now.

"We've dealt with some tough injuries this season and have a small squad, but the players that are available will be ready. Stephen's County is the home team and we come into this game as the underdog but we are confident and raring to go. We will have to be compact and resolute defensively while making the most of any opportunities that come our way."


White County’s Megan Runkle

The Class 3A fifth-ranked Lady Warriors (14-4) are another team that is rolling coming into the second round. They have six of their last seven with the only loss to Class 7A West Forsyth.

But they travel to No. 2 Oconee County (13-2) which has won five of its last six with its only loss to Class 4A No. 1-ranked North Oconee.

“The girls are playing great soccer right now. I’ve seen them continue to really elevate their game over the past couple weeks. I don’t think we’ve played our best game yet so I’m excited to see how the girls rise to the challenge that Oconee County presents.

“But to beat them, we’re going to have to bring a high level of pressure in the midfield, quick transitions, and maintain good composure throughout the game.”


SECOND ROUND GIRLS SOCCER SCHEDULE
(Games listed by date and classification, highest to smallest)
(Games listed by visiting team in alphabetical order)

(Area teams highlighted in bold)

Monday, April 26
CLASS 3A
Cherokee Bluff girls (R7, S2) at Westminster (R5, S1), 6 p.m.
North Hall girls (R7, S4) at Stephens County (R8, S2), 6 p.m.
White County girls (R7, S3) at Oconee Couunty (R8, S1), 6:30 p.m.

CLASS A PUBLIC
Atlanta Classical Academy girls (R7, S2) at Commerce (R8, S1), 6 p.m.
Towns County girls (R8, S4) at Drew Charter (R6, S3), 5:30 p.m.

CLASS A PRIVATE
Lakeview Academy girls (R8, S3) at Holy Innocents' (R5, S1), 4:30 p.m.


Tuesday, April 27
CLASS 3A
Greater Atlanta Christian girls (R5, S2) at Lumpkin County (R7, S1), 5:30 p.m.


Wednesday, April 28
CLASS 6A
Lassiter girls (R6, S2) at Buford (R8, S1), 6 p.m.

CLASS 4A
Flowery Branch girls (R8, S3) at Marist (R6, S1), 5 p.m.
Jefferson girls (R8, S3) at Northwest Whitfield (R7, S1), 6:30 p.m.

CLASS 2A
Banks County girls (R8, S3) at Model (R7, S1), 5:30 p.m.
Pace Academy girls (R6, S2) at Rabun County (R8, S1), TBD
Union County girls (R8, S2) at Lovett (R6, S1), 5:30 p.m.

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