Soccer teams from Lanier, North Gwinnett and Buford high schools all faced tenacious competition in the first round of the GHSA state playoffs.
Despite all the teams putting up a furious 80-minute fight in their games, most were unable to progress past the first round.
The Lanier girls faced off against Lassiter in the first round of the playoffs.
“Traveling to play a first seed team always presents a challenge,” head coach Shelby Carlyle said before the game. “The girls are eager to earn another week on the field together.”
The team particularly hoped that their top scorer, Emily Andrews, could net a winner. She was responsible for nine of the team’s 43 goals, though eight of their starting players also had goals to their names, according to Carlyle.
Unfortunately, the Lanier girls lost 5-0 to first seed Lassiter, putting an end to their season.
The boys soccer team played Kennesaw Mountain in their first round matchup.
“As always, you must respect the opponent,” said head coach Ezra Crumley. “This part of the season is a win or go home situation. So, you must be on point in preparation, training, mindset, and gameplay.”
He also noted the team had several one-goal losses throughout the course of the season, which he felt at least showcased his players’ refusal to quit until the final whistle.
The team’s top scorer, Anthony Sanchez, finished the season with 11 goals and three assists.
The Lanier boys made the long trip to Kennesaw Mountain on Friday, April 15, but unfortunately their season also ended with a 1-0 defeat.
The North Gwinnett girls team did not qualify for the playoffs, but the boys faced Forsyth Central on Wednesday, April 13.
Head coach Chris Leone praised his team’s cohesive play and ability to keep possession with lots of movement off the ball.
Their team play was obvious as top scorer Adam Burkey had four goals for the season, but six assists, demonstrating his willingness to make the extra pass as well as his teammates’ dedication to getting into scoring positions alongside him.
The Bulldogs put up a tough fight for 80 minutes against Forsyth Central, but they lost 1-0, ending their season.
The Buford girls went into their first round playoff game against Wheeler with an 18-0 record.
Not only had the team successfully defeated all opponents throughout the season, they also activated the league’s mercy rule on a number of occasions by racking up a scoreline of 10-0.
It’s not surprising then that their top scorer, Victoria Bahr, had a staggering 22 goals going into the playoffs.
“Being competitive and trusting the process along with believing in each other,” is what head coach Megan Hill believes has led to the team’s phenomenal success.
Despite the sometimes easy unbeaten run, however, Hill and her team are not taking anything for granted. “Every game will be a challenge in the playoffs,” she added.
Buford put in a solid performance in its first round match against Wheeler and won the game 4-0. Their second round game against Glynn Academy was scheduled for Wednesday, April 20.
The Buford boys played Lassiter in the first round.
“I think when we are on it, the team does a fantastic job possessing the ball,” said head coach Michael Wentzler. “Connecting passes and advancing the ball down the field with control with all of the guys working for one another on the same page to create great chances on goal.”
They’ve certainly created plenty of chances for the team’s top scorer, senior captain Lucas Stevenson, who has 11 goals and seven assists this season.
Wentzler did, however, express some concern about the team’s ability to finish at times.
“Against strong opponents, the number of opportunities is more limited, so we have to capitalize on what we create,” he said.
Unfortunately, the Wolves weren’t able to finish enough opportunities against Lassiter, and their season ended with a 4-0 defeat.
FEATURED PHOTO: Buford High School’s Sophia Martelli battles Wheeler’s Sienna Upton for control of the ball in the first round of the GHSA Class AAAAAA state playoffs. Photo by Alicia Couch Payne.