Girls soccer overcomes losing streak

The Southerner

By Jack Hudson

The girls soccer team finished the 2016-2017 season with an overall record of 12-7-1, making it to the third round of the state playoffs where they lost 2-0 to McIntosh.

Despite struggles early  in the season, the team was able to rebound, ending with only one loss in their region and were able to gain the second seed entering the playoffs.

After over a decade of coaching Grady Soccer, coach Rodney Thomas will be leaving the girls team to assume the position of Athletic Director at Decatur High School. Despite leaving for an intown rival, he says he will miss Grady soccer, especially the players, and is proud of what has been built in the past years and what the future has in store for the program.

“I like to think we put Grady Soccer on the map,” Thomas said. “We are now a state powerhouse, boys and girls. All the other schools in the state know us. They respect us. And we are still getting better. We are going to be in good hands with Coach Curtis, Coach Bennett, and Coach DiGiovanni. We will continue to thrive and be a flagship program in the state. I’m most happy with the fact that we turned little bitty old Grady into a soccer powerhouse. The future is just bright.”

The girls team will be looking to bring in a strong coach with experience and knowledge about the game to replace Coach Thomas’ presence on the staff, to not only develop the varsity team but to develop the junior varsity side as well.

“My assistant coach Richard Bennett will be key in  that,” said Thomas. “[Nikolai] Curtis will take over the reigns, as he pretty much did so as I was bowing out this year. He will decide who we will bring in as a certified teacher. Part of our problem within the past couple years has been finding quality junior varsity coaches. They need to have some knowledge of soccer so they are not just out there taking up space.”

The past two years the girls have made it to the third round of state of  the playoffs, and hope that despite losing several strong seniors this year and last they will be able to build upon this success.

Junior Tappan Wood has high expectations  for the upcoming season, and believes that the current and incoming freshmen will be able to contribute to their success.

“I think in the beginning, as a team, we could have worked harder,” Wood said. “With a lot of those games we lost we really just weren’t playing with any heart. Towards the end we won all of our region games, so we need to be more motivated from the beginning.”

If the motivation is there, Wood believes the team will be just as strong as past years despite the changes in coaching, and no matter what the team will have a good group of players to keep up the level of play from past generations.

“I think next season will be even better,” Wood said. “We aren’t losing that many starters, there are some good upcoming freshman, and we are all just going to have more experience for next year.”

Assistant coach Richard Bennett, who switched to the girls team after coaching the boys , was very proud of the team’s success. He will be the main person in finding a coach who supports the values embodied by the program Thomas has built.

“The ladies continued to improve every week and really began to gel as the season despite injuries suffered to key players,” Bennett said. “Making it to the quarter finals and losing 2-0 to state champions Mcintosh was an amazing feat for this young talented team. The future is bright for the girls program.”