State soccer championship
Northgate girls turn focus to Saturday
by Doug Gorman
(Editor’s Note: This is the first of two stories previewing Saturday’s Class AAAAA state championship girls soccer game)
More than 48 hours later, Northgate’s girls soccer program is still in a state of jubilation.
The Lady Vikings have a reason to be excited.
Scoring twice over a six-minute span trailing 1-0 late in regulation, Northgate shocked two-time defending state champion McIntosh with a 2-1 overtime victory to move on to Saturday’s Class AAAAA state final against yet another rival in Area 4-AAAAA foe Whitewater.
Kickoff is set for noon at West Georgia’s University Stadium in Carrollton.
Top-ranked Whitewater comes into the game with a 19-2-1 record, while No. 9-ranked Northgate brings improved its record to 15-3 with Tuesday’s win.
“It is just been a whirlwind,” Northgate head coach Bryan Hicks said. “The match the other night was just amazing, anybody who saw it knows that.”
The key the last two days for Hicks has been helping the team shift its focus from the program’s biggest win to the most anticipated game in Northgate soccer history.
It’s also one that pits a favorite from Fayette against underdogs from Coweta.
Despite the jubilation of Tuesday’s victory, the Lady Vikings have quickly moved on to Saturday’s showdown with the Lady Wildcats.
Whitewater won the this year’s meeting during the regular season in a 1-0 loss despite a phenomenal effort from Northgate keeper Mattea Lewis, who made 18 saves before letting a shot get by.
At the time, Hicks told the Times-Herald he felt “comfortable with the way we are progressing.”
After shifting players around in the lineup, the results have been impressive, winning 11 of their last 12 games, the exception being a 3-1 loss to East Coweta in the Coweta Cup tournament.
“We watched some game film from the McIntosh contest, and then we set ourselves up for Whitewater,” he said. “That is sort of just how we are. It’s always about one game at time for us.”
All four teams in the Class AAAAA Final Four were from Region 4-AAAAA so there hasn’t been any mystery during the tournament.
With its victory over McIntosh, Northgate was able to avenge a 3-1 loss to the Lady Chiefs earlier this year.
Northgate moved into the state-title game with a dramatic come-from-behind victory over McIntosh thanks to two goals from Lily Barron.
The Lady Vikings’ freshman tied the match with just four minutes left to play in regulation when she converted a shot from 18-yards out.
Barron added the game winner three-minutes into overtime when one of her shots ricocheted off a McIntosh defender.
After Barron’s second score, the Lady Chiefs played solid defense and ran out the clock.
Barron knows the future is bright for her school’s soccer team, but she is only looking ahead to Saturday’s contest with Whitewater.
“I wasn’t expecting this my freshman year,” Barron said. “I hoped we would go far, but I wasn’t sure. We have really good chemistry with each other, and that has been the key.”
Now, Northgate looks for some more revenge as it tries to beat Whitewater. In the regular-season meeting between the two clubs, Whitewater held on for a 1-0 victory.
When Micayla Crenshaw was a freshman the Lady Vikings made it to the final four. She knows what it would mean her senior year to climb to the top of the high school soccer mountain.
“Getting back to the final four was great,” Crenshaw said. “We need to make it better this time. Tuesday was the biggest win for me ever, but we have chance to win it all now, and that would be fantastic. It’s a huge deal for us.”
Now, that the Lady Vikings have made to the final chapter, Hannah Murray is looking for a happy ending to the story.
“What has happened is great, but we can’t just be satisfied with getting here,” she said. “Now we are only going to be satisfied if we win it all.”
Whitewater made its reservations to the title game with a 3-1 decision over Starr’s Mill in a battle of two Region 4-AAAAA teams from Fayette County.