BUFORD – Basics are basics. 

Buford’s are rather impressive under fifth-year head coach Megan Hill. It holds a 16-0-1 record with an undefeated record in 8-7A. The Wolves have allowed two goals in regular-season play.

They hold the top seed in the region and open postseason play April 16 against fourth-seeded foe Wheeler in region 5-7A. 

“We’ve been playing great together right now,” Hill told The North Gwinnett Voice Friday. “We have a pretty talented roster, so I can put kids in (off of the bench) and the level won’t drop.”

At each level, Hill has talent she can depend upon to prosper on the pitch. Jay Entlich, the Columbus State University women’s soccer coach who has built a premier body of work, serves as one of Hill’s mentors. He told the young, yet experienced, high school leader that Hill can’t win without goalkeepers and goal scorers. 

Buford is led by senior Alina Pope in the net, who returned to the playing field after recovering from an ACL injury in 2023. Those stats – a pair of goals conceded – draws a conclusion that she has made plenty of clutch saves for her team throughout the season. On the other side of the pitch, Buford deploys the weaponry of sophomore Evany Torres and junior Sophia Martelli as the leading scorers. 

Seven of the 16 Buford victories have come by five-or-more goals, including a string of 10-0 victories. 

Nonetheless, these are the basics. There’s a deeper root to Buford’s run of success and the trajectory it hopes to continue on for its chance at the first-ever state championship in program history. 

“We are definitely more connected than we have ever been,” Hill said. “The girls are excited to showcase what they have and hopefully get further into the playoffs than we did last year.”

Hill, five years ago, came to Buford from Peachtree Ridge needing to do a wide-ranging culture change. Buford girls’ soccer has long been a prestigious program and near the top of any region as the school climbed through GHSA classifications. In the year she took over the head-coaching duties, Buford held a 13-5-3 record (2019) and Hill saw potential for more.

Hill prides herself on the behind-the-scenes work, beyond the practices and games, for her team to build a bond that can translate into victories. Many college programs implement this approach, but it’s more than coachspeak for Hill and her staff of four assistant coaches. 

Buford has tried to implement a full character-building program for three seasons. It was able to build it piece-by-piece over the past three years, but this time, the players fully bought in. They’re classroom sessions, held once weekly. Some meetings are structured, others can be used to air grievances. 

“We meet weekly and go over adverse situations, how to be a better person and talk to your teammates,” Hill said. “We put them in different scenarios to help figure out each other. It’s a safe space for them and a team vulnerability session. Everything can stay in the room and we can interwork issues if there are any. We can also talk about how to be a better person in general.”

Hill pulls her inspiration from a few different sources. She’s tuned into Brett Ledbetter, the author of “What Drives Winning,” a motivational book centered in sports that leaders at many different levels endorse. She attends many of Ledbetter’s workshops and conventions in an attempt to pull the smallest bit of knowledge. Hill also has the wisdom of Buford’s athletic department and heard from director of athletic facilities Tony Wolfe, who reminded her that “success just doesn’t come with talent, because the most-talented teams decline.”

Buford hopes it has found the success element beyond the talent. Many of its regular seasons have unfolded in the same fashion. The Wolves finished 7-3-1 in 2020 (shortened by the pandemic), 20-2-1 in 2021, 21-1 in 2022 and 15-3 in 2023. Over five seasons, Hill has lost 10 games in her Buford career. 

Her deepest playoff run, however, came in 2021 after advancing to the GHSA semifinals and falling to Cambridge. Last season unfolded in the most-heartbreaking fashion for Buford as it dropped a second-round matchup to Walton. .

Now, for the Wolves’ eight seniors, they’re eager to respond. 

They’re now mature enough to understand that this is it for them,” Hill said. “They’re putting in a little bit more effort.”

Buford, in an effort to raise the adversity before the postseason, finished its schedule Friday night with a 3-1 win over North Paulding.

A quest for a trophy awaits.

“We want to win a state championship,” Hill said. “I’m very confident in this team.”

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