Last spring, South Forsyth’s girls’ soccer team came two wins short of a Class AAAAAA title, dropping a tough match to Parkview in the Final Four. Now, with a younger, somewhat revamped roster, the Lady War Eagles are prepared to embark on another deep playoff quest — one that will begin against a familiar foe.
Pending severe weather, South (11-6) will host Parkview (16-2) in the first round of this year’s state tournament on Wednesday, giving head coach Tom Braun’s club a shot at revenge.
That will be no easy task, though, as Parkview—which recently enjoyed a 10-game win streak—remains a powerhouse.
"We have to take it one day at a time," said Braun. "Parkview is a great team, and we know we’re going to be in for a battle."
Though the Lady War Eagles will enjoy home field advantage in Round 1, they will have to overcome some big injuries in order to advance. After several girls went down in last week’s game at Northview, South now finds itself without three key players: Blakely McDonald, Meagan Postell and Jenny Lins—all of whom are lost for the season.
"This stings," Braun said of the injuries. "Hopefully the kids rally and play hard. The team has been fine so far and has responded well to this challenge, so if they keep playing hard, good things will happen to us."
"I think we’re just trying to stay positive and not think about those who are hurt and think about those who are ready to go," said junior defender Elena Zang. "Now is the time to pull hard."
These ailments have forced Braun to make adjustments on-the-fly. Some girls have changed positions to fill the voids, and a few junior varsity athletes have been called up to provide depth.
However, one deficiency that can’t be fixed right now is lack of experience. South only has two healthy seniors at the moment and will be leaning on a lot of younger players who haven’t been a part of something as big as a high school playoff run.
"We have a lot of good freshmen," Zang said. "It took a while this season for it to click for them, but they’re getting the hang of it. They’re adjusting now; they understand how we play.
One of the few veterans South will lean on is senior Mackenzie Norton. The fourth-year forward, who vividly remembers last year’s loss to Parkview, feels good about her team’s chances moving forward despite the tough tasks that lie ahead.
"I’m pretty confident knowing our team has gone through so much, knowing what we’ve been through these past couple of weeks," Norton said. "We’ve progressed a lot."
Norton has seen some amplified intensity in practice, which she partially attributes to the team’s willingness to step up in the face of adversity. That intensity will likely need to spill over into the Parkview game for the Lady War Eagles to come away with a victory.
With vengeance on their minds, that shouldn’t be a problem.
"Losing to them in the Final Four was one of our worst losses," said Zang. "Now that we’re playing them at home, it’s time for revenge."