GHSA Soccer Playoffs – AAAAA
Home is sweet for Lady Vikings
by Doug Gorman
The Northgate girls soccer team took its first step toward defending the Class AAAAA title with first-round 4-0 win over Houston County on Wednesday.
In the process, the Lady Vikings (16-3) made history by hosting the program’s first playoff game at Henry Seldon Field.
“It was nice to be able to play at home and not have to travel two hours,” said Northgate head coach Bryan Hicks. “We just need to build on this.”
Last season, Northgate won all five of its playoff games on the road en route to the state crown, including the championship against Whitewater in a game held at the State University of West Georgia in Carrollton.
The Lady Vikings will return to their maroon road jerseys next week at Area 1-AAAAA champion Harris County (13-5) on Wednesday. The Lady Tigers beat Windsor-Forest 6-0 in their first round game.
“After what happened last year, we will play anywhere,” Hicks said.
Reece Weaver scored twice in the first half and Cara Rhoad connected on a penalty kick to give the defending state champions and 3-0 lead at the break.
Amanda Ives added the last goal for the Lady Vikings late in the second half.
Northgate keeper Mattea Lewis made six saves to help send the Lady Vikings into the second round. The team dominated the first 40 minutes, setting the tone immediately when Lily Barron nearly scored 25 seconds into the contest.
The Houston County goalkeeper barely got a hand on Barron’s shot, redirecting it, and sending the ball just wide right of the goal.
It didn’t take long for the Lady Vikings’ offense to click, however, scoring three times in the opening 26 minutes.
Weaver got things started a little less than six minutes into the contest and the Lady Vikings clicked from there, keeping the pressure on the Lady Bears half of the field most of the night.
Northgate pushed the lead to 2-0 on Rhoad’s successful penalty kick 10 minutes later, easily beating the Lady Bears’ goalkeeper before Weaver added her second goal to give Northgate a comfortable 3-0 margin at the break.
It could have been a lot worse if not for a couple of key saves by Houston’s keeper stopped opportunities and missed shots that either went wide or over the net.
“We had several chances to score throughout the game, but felt like we were in control most of the contest,” Hicks said.
The Lady Bears managed nine shots in the contest, but their scoring chances either went wide of the net, were saved by Lewis, or knocked away by the Northgate’s back line.
“Our defense is pretty solid,” Hicks said. “We have good defenders back there, and Mattea has been making good saves for the last four years.”
Northgate connected on its last goal 73 minutes into the contest when Ives headed the ball in off a corner kick.
Weaver appeared to have scored her third goal of the contest with a little more than a minute to go but the hat trick was denied when she was ruled offsides.
Lady Vikings 4, Lady Bears 0
Houston County 0 0 — 0
Northgate 3 1 — 4
Goals: Northgate — Reece Weaver 2, Cara Rhoad, Amanda Ives
Saves: Northgate — Mattea Lewis 6