Soccer season officially kicks off today and with two teams, the North Hall girls and the Flowery Branch boys, that went to the state semifinals last year; the bar has been raised.
“Our girls understand now what it takes,” first-year North Hall girls coach Nathan Wallace said. “They get what kind of attitude they have and what level they have to consistently play at.”
The Lady Trojans are ranked No. 4 in the eurosports.com preseason poll despite losing seven seniors from last year’s 15-2-1 squad.
Standouts Laura Lane and Sarah Carlton have moved on to play at the college level, but the talent left is promising for North Hall.
Bradee Burrell, Julia Matthews and Mary Mancin, all seniors, are returning starters. Burrell has already committed to North Georgia and Mancin to Columbus State. Sophomore Tess Patton will anchor the offense from her forward position, she finished last year as the team’s leading scorer.
The Lady Trojans unofficially kicked off their season Friday against Class AAAAA state runner-up South Forsyth in a scrimmage game.
The game ended in a 2-2 tie.
“That (game’s) really going to boost the girls’ confidence,” Wallace said. “We lost some good players from last year’s team, but (Friday) was a step towards understanding how good we can be.”
While North Hall was the most successful girls team out of Area 7-AAA, Gainesville, Chestatee and Flowery Branch also made it to state.
The Lady Falcons, who made it to the second round, are in their second year under Katie Scali and despite losing DeLana Thomas to graduation, will look to build on last year’s success.
Flowery Branch lost to Oconee County in the second round of the state tournament last year.
Chestatee returns it’s leader in South Carolina signee Megan Fligg and are hoping the standout scorer can be the catalyst for a third straight state playoff appearance.
The Lady War Eagles lost to Blessed Trinity in the first round of the state playoffs last year.
On the boys side, Flowery Branch is firing on all cylinders despite losing key staters Mackey Calderon, David Patino and Kyle Ellis.
The reason: Under second-year coach Jeremy Purdy, the Falcons have a better understanding of the formations and system that brought them so much success last year.
“We’re hoping to be able to carry that experience (of going to the state semifinals) into this year,” Purdy said. “We have strong leadership this year with four seniors and a good core group of sophomores and juniors who played last year and know what it takes to succeed.”
The North Hall boys, who finished second in the region behind Flowery Branch last year, along with Gainesville and East Hall round out the four that made state playoff appearances.
According the Purdy, the level of play in Area 7-AAA was enhanced by how competitively the other state playoff teams played against the likes of state powerhouses Druid Hills, Chamblee and Westminster in the first round of the playoffs last year.
“I felt last year that the two strongest regions were 5-AAA (which housed the teams that put three of the four 7-AAA teams out in the first round of the state playoffs) and us,” Purdy said. “It’s a big plus to be in this region and play against this type of competition.”
The two Flowery Branch teams will be the lone squads out of Hall County to play today, both take on Mill Creek with the girls match beginning at 5:30 p.m.