GHSA Soccer Playoffs
Area lineups prepare for this week’s openers
by Doug Gorman
Four local high school soccer teams, including Northgate’s Class AAAAA defending girls champions, begin their quest for GHSA state titles this week.
All three of the county’s girls lineups will be in action on Wednesday for respective first-round games. The GHSA schedule begins Tuesday when East Coweta’s boys travel to Lowndes (12-5-1).
Wednesday’s opening round of girls action includes a pair of home matches.
The Lady Vikings (15-3) open the AAAAA tournament against Houston County (13-3-1) at Henry Seldon Field. Last year’s state champions won all four of its Class AAAAA playoff games last spring on the road.
“It kind of cool to be at home,” said Northgate head coach Bryan Hicks. “We aren’t used to it, we have never even been a two seed. We have been working hard with some extra sessions, so we should be ready.”
Northgate finished as the No. 2 seed in Area 4-AAAAA while Houston finished third out of 1-AAAAA. The Lady Vikings — who hold a No. 2 state-ranking are looking to shake off two late-season losses in non-region play to Villa Rica and Columbus, both of which by 3-2 decisions. The loss to Villa Rica ended in penalty kicks.
Houston County has won seven of its last nine games.
In Class AAAAAA, East Coweta’s girls host Colquitt County (6-10) at Garland Shoemake Stadium while Newnan (9-7-1) travels to Tift County (15-2).
Northgate clinched its chance to host a playoff game after finishing second in the Region 4-AAAAA standings with a 15-3 overall record and a 9-1 mark in league play.
The Lady Vikings head into the playoffs ranked second in the most recent state poll behind top-ranked McIntosh, who beat Northgate 1-0 for Northgate’s only region loss.
East Coweta’s girls posted a 12-5 overall record, but went 5-0 in region play, beating Douglas 1-0 and Newnan 4-0 to secure the No. 1 seed out of Region 3-AAAAAA.
One of their losses this season came in a 2-1 decision to Northgate in the Coweta Cup.
Newnan went 9-7-1 overall, but settled for the third seed in the region after losing to both East Coweta and Douglas County.
For the East Coweta boys it has been a rebuilding year after advancing to the Class AAAAAA Final Four last season before losing to Berkmar in a shootout to end its season with just one loss.
The Indians posted a 9-9 record this year, but suffered some hard luck losses, including dropping eight games by just one point.
East Coweta also brings back some senior leadership in scorers Serenity Waters and Nikki Brandley.
Anna Lauzon and Lynnsey Danford have also brought leadership to the East Coweta lineup.
They face a Colquitt County team that made the playoffs despite a losing record.
East Coweta spent the last part of the regular season banged up, but is is starting to get healthy again.
“We are getting back to full strength,” East Coweta head coach Chris Luppens said. “It’s the playoffs, so sometimes it takes a little luck, but we are glad to be back healthy again.”
Newnan has played solid defense this season, with goaltending Francis Arnall turning away several shots.
Tift County earned the No. 2 seed out of Region 1-AAAAAA despite losing just two games, both in their final contest of the regular season when it fell to Camden County and Lowndes.
East Coweta’s boys are coming off a trip to last year’s GHSA Final Four, but entered the year having to replace several seniors including Newnan Times Herald Co-Players of the Ian and Conner Antley.
Despite a solid overall mark of 12-5-1 while finishing second in 1-AAAAA, Lowndes enters the postseason having lost two straight games and three of its last four matches at the close of the regular season.
The GISA playoffs, meanwhile, enter its second week with The Heritage School boys making its deepest run in the postseason since winning a 2003 state title.
The Hawks advanced to this week’s Class AAA Elite 8 with a 3-0 win over Westwood while improving their record to 12-2 under first-year coach Nathan Watts.
Heritage gets its toughest challenge to date, however, with a trip to play Region 3-AAA champion and No. 2 state-ranked Deerfield-Windsor on Wednesday at 7 p.m.
Deerfield (9-1) is coming off a 5-1 victory over Bulloch Academy.
The Heritage School’s girls and Trinity Christian’s boys had respective seasons end earlier than hoped last week.
The Lady Hawks suffered a 2-1 overtime loss to Tattnall Square at home while the Lions fell 8-0 to No. 4 state-ranked Mount de Sales.