Lady Viking Seniors
Revenge well worth the wait
by DOUG GORMAN
CARROLLTON—Four years ago, the Whitewater Lady Wildcats soccer team broke the hearts of the Northgate Lady Vikings with a 3-1 victory in the Final Four.
Whitewater has been the Lady Vikings’ No. 1 nemesis every since, beating them every year in regular-season contests.
Both Micayla Crenshaw and Hannah Murray were on the field for that first playoff game four years ago and in every contest with Whitewater since, only to leave with a sour taste in their mouths.
Now, things have come full circle for Crenshaw and Murray.
Playing in a steady drizzle at University Stadium on the campus of West Georgia University, the Lady Vikings’ dynamic duo hand delivered a shocking 4-1 victory against the top-ranked Lady Wildcats to give the program the Class AAAAA title.
Three seniors were determined to go out on top despite their past negative history against the Lady Wildcats.
Crenshaw scored two goals and Murray one en route to writing a new chapter of Northgate soccer history.
“This is just awesome,” said Crenshaw said. “We have been trying to beat them for so many years and to do it in this game is special.”
Murray said the team was determined to erase its past history against the Lady Wildcat from the time the team boarded the bus Saturday morning for the short trek to Carrollton.
“This is just such a great accomplishment for us,” Murray said. “The crowd was great, and we were just so motivated today. We felt never felt like we were going to lose.”
Northgate head coach Bryan Hicks realizes Crenshaw and Murray are responsible for raising the bar for Lady Vikings’ soccer.
“We are the ones lifting the Cup today,” Hicks said. “That’s the difference. We have never beaten them and to beat them in the finals, it doesn’t get any bigger then this and I can’t be happier for our seniors.
Hicks has witnessed Crenshaw and Murray’s maturation process and it came out today, especially early in the second half after Whitewater had scored the quick goal to tie the game up.
Crenshaw and Murray didn’t let their team stop fighting.
“Everything just went really well for us today. We talk all the time about how is you story going to end,” Hicks said. “They finished their book in a very special way.”
In addition to Crenshaw and Murray, Amanda Lee also finished her high school soccer career at Northgate, coming on the field as an early sub in the 20th minute.
Crenshaw set the tone for the Lady Vikings with the only goal before halftime or either team nearly 12 minutes into the contest.
Her first-half goal came on one of the team’s first shots on goal after the Lady Wildcats had controlled the offense through the early part of the match before the Lady Vikings were able to get on track.
“I was able to pull the goalie out and really just had to touch it one time,” Crenshaw said.
The goal also showed the Lady Vikings they could play with Whitewater.
“It took us 20 minutes to settle in, Hicks said. “Once Crenshaw got that goal, we sort of were able to get back on track.”
Crenshaw then showed her leadership with her second goal of the game early in the second half after the Lady Wildcats had tied the game a 1-all just seconds after the break.
In what turned out to be the game winner, Crenshaw booted the ball into the Whitewater goal from 25-yards out for a 2-1 lead.
From there, the Lady Vikings were just heating up.
Murray then added a great insurance goal for the 3-1 lead followed up by freshman Lily Barron who closed the game out with one more score in the second half.
Down the stretch Murray and Crenshaw each proved they could do more than just score clearing the ball out of the Whitewater end of the field with a couple of big defensive moves as the clock slowly wound down to all zeros.
Not lost on the two seniors was the play of the Northgate defense with Ashley Keller, Hayli Verbanic, Katie Salha and Katie Mitchell accounting for some key stops.
Mattea Lewis’ spectacular save in the first half with the game still scoreless kept the Lady Wildcats from gaining the momentum.
“Things like that just really motivate us,” Crenshaw said. “
Murray and Crenshaw leave a lasting legacy with the Northgate soccer program.
Murray is headed to play Division I soccer at Georgia State, while Crenshaw takes her soccer skills to Middle Georgia.
Although Crenshaw and Murray will be hard to replace, the future is bright for the Lady Vikings as 15 players are expected to return to the team next year.
“There is a lot to be excited about it, he said. “Our team has really bought in to what we are trying to do. Everybody has worked hard, including some early-morning conditioning, and look what it did for us. They pay off is huge.”