DACULA – For the first time in school history, the Pinecrest Acadmy boys soccer team has punched its ticket to the quarterfinals of the Class A private school playoffs, defeating Hebron Christian 2-0 on Tuesday.
For the girls, their historic season came to an end as they fell 1-0 in their matchup against Hebron.
The Paladins boys will face the winner of Atlanta International and Walker.
The Pinecrest boys jumped ahead of the Lions midway through the first half when senior Logan Hamilton threaded a long through-ball down the middle of the field to fellow senior Ricardo Rivera, who sped past his defender and squeezed the ball under the keeper to put Pinecrest up 1-0 with 26:24 remaining.
“I’m super proud of (our team) tonight,” Victoria said. “From underclassmen to the seniors, they all played equally great.”
The Pinecrest boys displayed marvelous continuity on the offensive side of the field, moving the ball with precision amidst the opponent’s midfield and racking up 24 shots in the process. Hamilton and Victoria synergized well with junior midfielder Lukas Perez-Sierra, keeping offensive possessions alive for the Paladins and making things easier for Paladins keeper Lucas Del Balzo.
The match was physical between the two teams. Despite several hard-hitting collisions, Pinecrest embraced the rough tempo and didn’t allow it to detract from their offense.
“We knew they were going to be big, strong and aggressive,” Pinecrest coach Chris Kane said. “But I think we matched them … we’re excited to be moving on.”
Perez-Sierra added the exclamation point to his team’s performance only minutes into the second half when he volleyed in a goal off a corner kick, putting his squad up 2-0. Afterwards, Pinecrest slowed down the pace of the game and cruised to the finish line.
The Paladins girls showed a great measure of grit in their game, but struggled to move the ball efficiently and spent most of the contest on the defensive. The back-line held strong for the entirety of the first half, but a Hebron corner kick led to a deflected shot that bounced off of a Paladin defender and skipped past keeper Bailey Evans, putting the Lions up 1-0 early in the second half.
The Pinecrest girls were unable to answer the decisive Hebron goal despite having several chances to do so down the stretch. Despite the loss, the Paladin girls put together the most successful season in team history, a fact that is not lost on the players.
“I think we were really psyched up for this game, and that’s what led to some of the mistakes that we made,” junior defender Caroline Brenner said.
Brenner added: “I think we set the bar for Pinecrest soccer because it’s never been taken as seriously as it has been now.”
With the win, the Paladins boys find themselves treading in unknown waters, entering the state playoff quarterfinals for the first time in school history. Despite not yet knowing their opponent, coach Kane is confident that his team will be ready.
“It’s the Elite Eight, we’ve never been here,” Kane said with a smile. “It’s not really the opponent we play, it’s how we play. If we come out prepared, focused and ready to go, we’re really a tough team to match-up with.”