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Soccer: Pinecrest boys earn schools first playoff berth in GHSA
Paladins headed for postseason despite loss to Holy Innocents
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Pinecrest Academys Luis Garcia-Ulloa celebrates a goal against Holy Innocents on Thursday at the Paladins field. - photo by Jared Putnam

No matter how much of a damper Dylan Thomas put on Senior Night at Pinecrest Academy, there was nothing he could do to diminish the boys soccer team’s historic season.

Thomas racked up four goals that led No. 6-ranked Holy Innocents to a 5-2 victory on Thursday at Pinecrest, but the Paladins came into the game with their first state playoff berth in the Georgia High School Association already in hand.

The Paladins are Pinecrest’s first squad to earn a postseason spot in any sport since the school left the Georgia Independent School Association to join the Georgia High School Association in 2010. Only the top three teams make the playoffs in Region 6-A.

"It’s absolutely something I’m proud of," first-year Pinecrest head coach Tom McCabe said of the postseason berth. "These guys should be very proud of themselves. They work very hard, and in order to step up a game, many of them who’ve never played club before were playing club the last couple of years to improve their game, and we’ve seen the results."

Pinecrest (5-3-2, 3-3 Region 6-A) struck first with a goal from midfielder Luis Garcia-Ulloa in the 9th minute on a bending shot into the left of the net, but Thomas tied it up for Holy Innocents (8-3-1, 5-1) less than two minutes later with a 15-yard shot from the right side of the box.

Garcia-Ulloa put the Paladins back on top with a chip shot over the keeper and into the goal with 24:04 left in the first half.

"He’s just always consistent," McCabe said. "He feeds. He stands in the middle and feeds and lags behind a striker and just picks it and cleans up. [When] balls come back, he cleans up and scores goals."

Thomas answered for the Golden Bears with a shot into the bottom left of the net to tie the game at 2-2 in the 27th minute.

Holy Innocents took the lead for the first time when Thomas controlled the ball in the middle of the box and fired a shot past the keeper for his third goal with 26:32 left in regulation before Brian Parrish broke the game open six minutes later with a close-range shot in the box.

"They capitalized on our mistakes," McCabe said. "I think it was an evenly matched team. A team like that, if you make a slight mistake, they capitalize. That’s how we gave up three goals, and that made the difference."

Pinecrest nearly had another goal when Stefane Rivard crossed the ball into the box for Garcia-Ulloa, but the keeper made a fingertip save and tipped the ball away.

Thomas added his fourth goal with a shot from 25 yards away and hooked it into the right corner of the net with 13:06 left.

Holy Innocents (girls) 7, Pinecrest 1

Julia Bird recorded a hat-trick while Brandt Wilmer and Bailey McBride tacked on two goals apiece, and No. 3-ranked Holy Innocents knocked off Pinecrest 7-1 on Thursday at the Paladins’ Field.

"They’ve got a lot of girls [who] are club players and they’ve got a lot of tall girls, which helps on the headers they made," said Pinecrest second-year head coach Robbie Kinard. "We have so many of our players hurt that are out, and they’re my forwards, so we had very little offense.

"We had to pick it up on defense and did the best we could, but in the end it comes up that we’re on the [losing] end."

Bird scored the game’s first goal in the 15th minute with a shot from 10 yards away to beat the keeper. Seven minutes later, she found the back of the net again with a shot that hit the crossbar and bounced past the line.

Wilmer tallied her first goal with 4:28 left in the first half with a close-range shot to put Holy Innocents (12-4, 6-1 Region 6-A) ahead 3-0 at halftime.

Just over a minute into the second half, McBride chipped the ball over the top of the goalie into the net. Madeleine Gibson nearly added to the lead two minutes later with a penalty kick, but Pinecrest (3-7, 2-5) keeper Maggie Herd blocked the low shot.

The momentum transferred over into the offense, as the Lady Paladins worked their way up the field. Senior Cayce Hamilton took a shot from about 10 yards away that hit the crossbar and bounced directly down, where sophomore Jessica Satriano finished the scoring opportunity with a tap-in.

McBride stopped the rally three minutes later with a penalty kick for her second goal of the game to make the score 5-1. Wilmer tacked on her second goal with a bending shot into the left corner before Bird scored her third goal on a rebound.

"Nobody’s really put us out like this," Kinard said. "This is the worst game we’ve had so far. Most of the games we’ve gone into penalty kicks; we’ve lost one or two by a few goals. We’re pretty much even with everybody, but we’re just not healthy this year."

Pinecrest’s girls will wrap up their season at St. Francis on Monday at 5 p.m