ATLANTA – The tables turned on a North Hall team that spent the season dominating region opponents.
St. Pius, the state and nation’s No. 1 ranked team, scored its first goal five minutes into the game en route to a 4-0 win against North Hall on Friday in the Class AAA state championship.
“They were amazing and back up that No. 1 ranking,” North Hall coach Nathan Wallace said. “They were just tough.
“Our girls played hard and I felt they fought the whole time. (St. Pius) was just better tonight.”
Even with the loss, North Hall remains the only area girls soccer team ever to make it to the state finals.
St. Pius (22-0) came in beating playoff opponents by an average of 6.5 goals and having allowed none.
The Lady Golden Tigers defensive prowess was evident in the fact that they held North Hall to three shots, two on goal, for the entire game.
The Lady Golden Tigers kept that streak going by pressuring North Hall’s goal from the outset, on their way to 41 shots, 23 on goal.
Much like St. Pius worked to pressure offensively from the start; North Hall’s goal was to make sure the opponent didn’t score early, in an effort to create momentum and confidence.
The Lady Trojans’ second-leading scorer and usual forward Allie Wright, was placed in her old position of sweeper to try and thwart the speed of St. Pius’ forwards.
In St. Pius’ case, however, it wasn’t the just the forwards that were scoring threats.
Defender Erin Hill put St. Pius on the board when, after settling a steal, she fired a curving shot from 40-yards out that sailed just over the outstretched arms of North Hall goalkeeper Mary Mancin.
“In a game like this, you don’t want to get scored on in the first 5-10 minutes,” Wallace said. “Unfortunately, that’s what happened. Mary went for it; I didn’t think it was going in.”
The Lady Golden Tigers scored again 10 minutes later when senior Jocelyn Baker crossed the ball to Christine Christy, who struck it in from close range.
Baker went on to score a goal of her own with 20 minutes remaining in the game, off an assist from Veronica Romero. St. Pius’ leading goal scorer Alexa Newfield scored her team’s other goal, eight minutes into the second half.
As a testament to North Hall’s tenacious defense, the majority of the game was spent of their side of the field. Without the play of Taylor Knight, Kimberly Mistarz, Anna Kate Wright, Emily Smith, Bradee Burrell and Mancin, things could have been much worse.
In her final game for North Hall, Mancin had 20 saves and the sign that she had given her all was evident in her inability to leave the field after the final buzzer sounded.
“Anytime you lose a game like this it’s tough, “ Wallace said. “But these girls have got something to be very proud of.
“The standard for North Hall girls soccer has been building and while our three seniors will be hard to replace, out experience coming back is huge.”