For the first time in program history, the North Hall girl’s soccer team is headed to the state title game.
The third-ranked Lady Trojans (17-3) scored three first-half goals and added another late in the second half to beat No. 9 Spalding (14-4) 4-0 during the semifinals of the Class AAA state tournament Tuesday at North Hall.
“It’s really exciting,” said senior Julia Matthews, who put the Lady Trojans ahead early with a goal off an assist from Allie Wright in the 14th minute. “I don’t think anyone thought we’d get this far.”
If there were any doubters in the stands, they left The Brickyard convinced that North Hall deserves the chance to play for the championship. The Lady Trojans will play top-ranked St. Pius X (21-0) in the title game Friday in Atlanta.
With crisp passes and well-executed runs, the Lady Trojans pressured Spalding’s goal early and often which ultimately led to the first of Matthews’ two first-half goals.
“Coming into the season they wanted it, they wanted to get to the finals and they did that,” North Hall coach Nathan Wallace said.
They did so in convincing fashion.
Just three minutes following Matthews’ first goal, the Lady Trojans scored again. This time it was on a corner kick from Wright that was knocked in goal by the body of Tess Patton.
Matthews scored again with four minutes left in the first half when she received a pass from Heather Strickland and fired a shot from 5-yards out into the back of the net.
After battling Eagles Landing in a scoreless game in the quarterfinals, Wallace was glad to see his team score.
“Having the lead in this game was big,” he said. “For us to be able to come out and have Julia, Tess and Allie all on top of their games...that helped.”
Not only were North Hall’s top three offensive players on their game, but once again the North Hall defense stepped up, recording its 11th shutout of the year and fourth of the playoffs.
Senior Mary Mancin recorded five saves, but the biggest save might have come from Matthews, who blocked a sure goal with her feet in the 44th minute.
“Saving that goal was better than scoring two,” Matthews said. “I’m not very good at defense.”
Matthews’ shutout-saving stop provided more momentum for North Hall, which scored its final goal when Wright received a pass at midfield, raced past three defenders and fired a shot past Spalding goalie Abby Stephens.
Stephens finished the game with six saves, including three diving stops on hard shots from Wright and Patton.
While Stephens was tested all game, Mancin and the North Hall defense provided Spalding with little scoring opportunities as the Lady Jaguars were held to one shot in the first half and 10 (five on goal) for the game.
North Hall will need another stellar performance from its entire team if it hopes to win a state title against the Lady Golden Lions. St. Pius, which has recorded 10 straight shutouts, enters the championship game undefeated and has outscored its opponents 131-6 this season.
“We can’t give up on it,” Matthews said of playing for the title. “We know any team on any day can win.”
If that’s true, then North Hall will do something else it’s never done in girl’s soccer: Come home to The Brickyard as state champions.