Knights to face ultimate test in Pius, the state’s No. 1 ranked team

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Sophie Maschinot and Perri Bonner are all smiles near the end of Grady's 10-0 shellacking of AIS on Thursday. The team hopes it will be smiling on Wednesday when it hosts the No. 1-ranked and defending state champion Pius Golden Lions. Photo by Valentina Makrides.

By Mallory McFarlin

 The Grady Knights varsity girls soccer team will face the St. Pius Golden Lions, the No.1 team across all classifications in Georgia, on Wednesday March 7. When Grady fans and players think about the Pius game, they think about one thing: losing.

Two years ago, Pius mercy-ruled Grady (winning by a 10-goal margin), 11-1. Last year, Grady played Pius twice, losing, 6-0, and, 7-1. The same person who scored both of Grady’s goals, junior Perri Bonner, will be sitting out for the game this year due to a slightly torn tendon.

“I’m so upset I’m not able to play,” Bonner said. “But I think my team will do fine.”

Grady’s main objective as a team, apart from creating scoring chances in Bonner’s absence, is to avoid the mercy rule.

“I’m hoping that maybe we can keep them 5-0,” sophomore Ansley Marks said. “Sounds really bad, but we’ve held them off at 2-0 at halftime before.” Some of Marks’ teammates are even less optimistic.

“I think the score will be somewhere around 7-0 honestly,” sophomore Emily Ferris said.

“Really anything that’s not mercy-ruled would be nice,” Marks said. “Not saying I would be content with a 9-0 game, but I wouldn’t be too hard on myself and the team.”

The Pius rivalry is one of Grady’s most anticipated each season. Every year presents another game and another opportunity for a miracle upset. Grady wants to be able to prove itself as a team, and Pius offers the perfect chance.

“We are all practicing hard and approaching the game with a different way to mark their forwards and attacking midfielders,” Ferris said.

Without Bonner, the team is shifting its focus to the defensive side of the field. Considering Pius has scored 24 goals to Grady’s three, the team must improve its defense in order to compete.

“It’d be nice to score of course,” Marks said. “But let’s just say we’re probably going to be playing defense the whole time.”

The last three games against the Golden Lions have been contested at St. Pius. Wednesday’s game, however, will be held at Grady Stadium, giving the Knights at least one advantage.

“The past three years Grady has had to face Pius at Pius and their fans can truly be overwhelming,” Bonner said, “but this year our fans will definitely keep our teams spirits up.”

Players that are playing on the field in the game have a different outlook on it, though.

“Hopefully we’ll get more support which would be nice,” Marks said. “But honestly it doesn’t really affect how I play.”

With the game right around the corner, Grady has been practicing hard. However, Pius has a different attitude to the game.

“We’ve just been practicing like normal,” sophomore Pius soccer player, Stella Gardner said. “We haven’t really done anything different to prepare for it.”

You might think that since Grady has never beat Pius in soccer, they might try something different. Instead of sticking with the regular formation, Grady is going to change it up a bit.

“We are going to try a few new strategies,” Ferris said. “I can’t spoil it though!”

All Grady teammates are excited and nervous for the game. Everyone wants to prove that they can compete with Pius and perhaps even tie or–knock on wood–upset them.

“We have been training hard this season,” Gardner said. “And we will definitely show it on the field on Wednesday.”

Who knows? Nobody gave Rocky Balboa, the Mighty Ducks or the Bad News Bears much of a chance either.

“We just need to play with a lot of heart this year,” Bonner said. “Anything could happen.”

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