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Prep soccer: Lady Trojans fall in state semis
North Hall's Elizabeth Williams stumbles while heading the ball away from Blessed Trinity's Christina Kyker during the first halff of Wednesday evening's girls soccer semi-finals at The Brickyard. - photo by Scott Rogers | The Times


North Hall assistant coach Jerome Samuels talks about the game, the season and the future of the Lady Trojans’ soccer program.

One inch put an end to North Hall’s remarkable season.

Mired in a scoreless tie with Class AAA’s top-ranked team, Blessed Trinity, Taylor Green fired a long shot on goal that headed right at North Hall goalie Mary Mancin. As Mancin was about to handle the ball, Blessed Trinity’s Allison Gonzalez snuck behind the defense and headed the ball past Mancin to give the Lady Titans a 1-0 win and advance them to the state championship game for the fifth straight year. They will play Paulding County for the Class AAA state title Saturday.

“When you get to this level it’s a matter of inches,” North Hall assistant coach Jerome Samuels said. “You have to give credit to that girl for playing the odds. She said, ‘You know what, I know it’s a hopeless ball running into the keeper, but I’m going to try.’”

The lone goal by Blessed Trinity (15-0-1) was the result of the immense amount of second-half offensive pressure that the Lady Titans put on third-ranked North Hall (15-2-1).

“The pressure we put on them today was the most pressure we put on anybody all year,” Blessed Trinity coach Gilbert Jean-Baptiste said. “We knew if we pressured their defense and their keeper that we would be able to get a goal.”

While it was Blessed Trinity’s pressure that led to the only score of the game, it was the pressure of the Lady Trojans that put the two-time defending champions on their heels.

Just five minutes into the game, North Hall got its best scoring chance of the night when Julia Matthews’ chip shot sailed just over the goal. But, although they put pressure on goal, the shot by Matthews was the only shot on goal North Hall had all match.

“I told them not to respect their opponent too much,” Samuels said of the reasons behind North Hall’s aggressive start.

In the second half, Blessed Trinity showed why it should be respected.

After a few halftime adjustments, the Lady Titans proved why they are one of the best teams in the state by keeping the ball on North Hall’s end of the field for the majority of the final 40 minutes.

The defense of Alli Wright, Meredith Clark, Anna Kate Wright and Elizabeth Williams halted many scoring opportunies by Blessed Trinity, but it was only a matter of time before the Lady Titans were able to score.

“They pinned us in the second half and that wore us down,” Samuels said. “They were a little deeper than us this year.”

That depth, which allowed Blessed Trinity to substitute fresh players in frequently, ultimately led to Gonzalez’s goal and the end of what was a historic year for the Lady Trojans.

“I thought the girls represented well,” Samuels said of the team that reached the state semifinals for the first time in the program’s history. “You could see that the gap from where we are and where they (Blessed Trinity) are is smaller.

“Three years ago (Blessed Trinity) was seven goals better than us,” he added, refering to the Lady Trojans 7-1 loss to Blessed Trinity in the first round of the 2005 state playoffs.

North Hall made numerous attempts to score the equalizer late, but on each attempt Blessed Trinity’s defense proved why it had only surrendered one goal all year.

“I’m very disappointed,” an emotional Laura Lane said after the game. “But I’m so proud of my team for making it this far.

“I feel like we’ve set high standards for our school and I hope the girls next year can make it just as far.”

Lane, along with fellow seniors Ashley Lackey, Williams, Sarah Carlton, Clark, Jenny Mancin and Jennifer Eavonson all played their final high school game for the Lady Trojans on Wednesday, but according to Samuels, their impact on the program will never be forgotten.

“These are the best seniors you could ask for,” he said. “They’ve paved the way and now it’s up to us to continue the development of the girls behind them.”