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2018 GIRLS SOCCER PREVIEW: Team-by-team capsules
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Lambert's Alisa Burr holds the Class 7A girls soccer state championship trophy Saturday while hoisted by teammates. Burr scored the eventual game-winning goal. - photo by Micah Green

Forsyth Central

Coach: Angela Camp, third season

Last season: 8-9-0

Key returners: D Morgan Dech (Jr.), F Callie Fagan (Jr.), D Hannah Hamilton (Sr.), F Allie Hildebrandt (Sr.), D Hadley Meeks (Sr.), MF Alexis Sherman (Jr.), MF Nicki Williams (Sr.)

Key newcomers: MF Maya Holland (Fr.)

What to know: After reaching the Class 5A state quarterfinals in 2016, the Bulldogs had an understandably rough transition joining Class 7A last season, particularly joining a region that produced the state champion (Lambert) and a state semifinalist (South Forsyth) as well as a state finalist the previous season (West Forsyth).

Third-year head coach Angela Camp is optimistic for improvement this season with a group of seniors and juniors who have built a healthy mix of comradery and experience, led by second team all-county players Morgan Dech and Callie Fagan. Allie Hildebrandt’s return from injury should bolster Central’s attack, which returns every contributor. “I think the sky is the limit for this team,” Camp said.

Lambert

Coach: Scott Luthart, ninth season

Last season: 20-3-0, Class 7A state champions

Key returners: MF Alisa Barr (Sr.), F Katelyn Castelli (Soph.), MF Reagan Donnelly (Jr.), MF Lauren Hong (Sr.), F Anna Sullivan (Sr.)

Key newcomers: D Emma Baumbick (Jr.), D Maddie Franz (Fr.)

What to know: After finishing runner-up in Class 6A in 2016, the Longhorns broke through last season for the program’s first state championship. Lambert’s hopes of a repeat run this season took a major hit, though, due to the influence of the Developmental Academy and graduation.

Still, the Longhorns return much of their midfield from last season in Reagan Donnelly, Lauren Hong and Alisa Barr, who scored the overtime game-winning goal in the state championship against Grayson, and experienced forwards in Katelyn Castelli and Anna Sullivan. Head coach Scott Luthart’s biggest challenge will be reforming the team’s entire defense. “This team will have to find its defensive identity very quickly,” Luthart said.

North Forsyth

Coach: Jared Steinberg, third season

Last season: 6-12-0

Key returners: D Lauryn Almond (Sr.), MF Canby Biddle (Jr.), F Kristina Evans (Sr.), GK Kat Fisher (Sr.), D/MF Stephanie Metzger (Sr.), D Jordan Maier (Sr.), F Sydney Miller (Sr.)

Key newcomers: MF Hayden Galbraith (Fr.), F Lexi Lomax (Soph.), D Kylie Maier (Fr.)

What to know: The Raiders went winless in Region 5-7A last season, but third-year head coach Jared Steinberg is hopeful this group can take a significant step forward, particularly with an experienced attack, led by senior Kristina Evans, a second team all-county selection last season.

The key, according to Steinberg, is how North handles transitions. The Raiders perform well pressuring opponents but have struggled to get back to their defensive positions when opponents switch the field.

Pinecrest Academy

Coach: Domenic Martelli, third season

Last season: 12-9-0, reached quarterfinals of Class 1A state playoffs

Key returners: MF Grace Aufleger (Jr.), D Sarah Brown (Soph.), MF Emily Buckley (Jr.), D Olivia Gannon (Jr.), F Caroline Jeffcoat (Jr.), MF Regina Metz (Sr.), D Haley Triplett (Jr.)

Key newcomers: F Allison Doerr (Soph.), MF/F Sophia Alvarez Del Pino (Fr.), MF Jaylynn Moreno (Fr.), D Meghan Sullivan (Fr.)

What to know: The Paladins are coming off their best season since joining the GHSA, falling in the quarterfinals of the Class 1A state playoffs to First Presbyterian, the eventual state runner-up. Pinecrest has a lot of reasons to believe it can build on that milestone this season.

Pinecrest has experienced contributors back in the midfield with Grace Aufleger and Regina Metz and on defense with Haley Triplett. Martelli is excited about a talented crop of underclassmen, led by sophomore defender Sarah Brown. Pinecrest’s biggest challenge will be replacing last season’s two leading scorers, but Martelli believes the team can overcome that will a more balanced attack.

South Forsyth

Coach: Tom Braun, 14th season

Last season: 19-3, reached semifinals of the Class 7A state playoffs

Key returners: D Riley Habegger (Sr.), MF Riley McBride (Jr.)

What to know: After reaching the state semifinals last season – and maybe deserving of more, after losing to a Grayson team that eventually forfeited its season due to an ineligible player – South Forsyth finds itself rebuilding after heavy loses to graduation and the influence of the Developmental Academy that took five players who were all-county selections.

The War Eagles will instead turn to senior defender Riley Habegger and junior midfielder Riley McBride to lead the way. And despite the loss of personnel, veteran coach Tom Braun isn’t adjusting his expectations for the program. “A state playoff appearance would be a goal for any team,” Braun said.

West Forsyth

Coach: Kim Spence, first season

Last season: 11-8-0, lost in the first round of the Class 7A state playoffs

Key returners: MF Amanda Ewers (Soph.), MF Grace Ann Green (Sr.), GK AJ Needham (Jr.), D Karson Rosenberger (Sr.)

Key newcomers: D Isabella Aguilar (Fr.), MF Rachel Hale (Fr.)

What to know: First-year head coach Kim Spence got a bit of an introduction to the Wolverines as an assistant last season. She knows the team will miss three Division I-caliber contributors from last season’s team due to the Developmental Academy influence in Kylie Gazza (Samford), Kristy Jebavy (Georgia State) and Meagan McIlnerney (Georgia State).

She also knows West returns an experienced defense, led by goalkeeper AJ Needham and Mercer commit Karson Rosenberger, but a young team overall, so communication and leadership will be paramount for the Wolverines to get back to the state playoffs.