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An upbeat website for a downtown school

the Southerner Online

An upbeat website for a downtown school

the Southerner Online

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Girls soccer wins region, prepares for playoffs

Courtesy of Ida Centner
Senior Allie Planeaux dribbles down the field under pressure on senior night against Lithia Springs. Planeaux is committed to play Division One soccer at The University of North Carolina – Wilmington.

After beginning the season with a record of 2-2-1, the Knight’s girls soccer team has bounced back with a perfect 8-0 winning streak in region 5A, giving them the region title, with hopes of returning to the State Championship.

The Knights started the season with wins against Decatur and North Forsyth, a tie against Pope and a loss to both Starrs Mill and North Atlanta, a less successful start than the 2023 season, where the team won their first six games and finished the season 18-2. Senior co-captain Ellie Palaian said the losses were due to a lack of connection early on in the season.

“We hadn’t seen each other play enough, we hadn’t worked together, so it was very disorganized going into the season,” Palaian said. “Last season we started off with a six game winning streak, so for a lot of the girls that were on the team last year, it was hard to go into the season with these losses because we weren’t used to it because last year was so successful.”

Palaian said the team took some time to adjust to not having graduated players Hayley Chamberlain, Archer Streelman, Maddie Shaw and Shay Bowman on the field with them, but the underclassmen players have stepped up.

“We lost four of our big players, Archer, Hayley, Maddie and Shay and they all brought so much to the team and were huge leaders on the team, so losing them was tough,” Palaian said. “There are big shoes to fill and a lot of that now is coming from the underclassmen and a lot of talent is coming from a lot of the younger players.”

Head coach Blair Barksdale said that adjustments needed to be made after the slow start.

“We’ve changed a few people around position wise,” Barksdale said. “We’ve also started really getting prepared and matching up to teams that we’re gonna play. I’ve shifted some people into not new positions, but their strongest position.”

The Knights have also struggled with some injuries, namely freshman Hudson Joyner and senior co-captain Carolyn Harty. 

“Hudson is a huge loss because, even coming in as a freshman, we knew she was a talented player,” Palaian said. “She plays in the Girls Academy League at Tophat and we knew she was going to be a key attacker for us. Her, McKenzie [Godfrey] and the girls returning were going to be a force up front. And losing Carolyn was a big hit as well. She is a presence on and off the field, she is a big part of what holds the team together. So, losing her on the field and in practice will be hard to adjust to, especially for the younger girls who look up to her as a leader.”

Sophomore McKenzie Godfrey said the talent and the energy of the players on the team will help them succeed.

“I really like the atmosphere of the team, people are pushing each other and supporting each other through practices and games,” Godfrey said. “We have a lot of talent on the team and I’m hopeful that we’re able to make a deep playoff run because of our depth.”

Barksdale said that practices have started to become more serious as the playoffs are approaching.

“Practice is very intense, we’re doing a lot of conditioning, really working hard at practice and making sure we keep up the intensity,” Barksdale said. “They’re really pushing each other because they know that they have to be ready for the playoffs.”

The Knights defeated region rival Maynard Jackson 4-0 on Mar. 28 behind two goals from Godfrey and senior Allie Planeaux. Palaian said the team connected during this tough game.

“When we played Maynard I really saw the team come together,” Palaian said. “A couple of us knew some of the girls on the Maynard team, and there’s a small rivalry between our two schools, so we came out ready to play. Our bench was the loudest it’s ever been, our midfield was connecting and getting back on defense, our forwards were finishing and our back line was solid. It was nice to see our competitive side and how that fueled us, and it gives me a lot of hope for the playoffs.”

Palaian said that, as the team continues to click, their odds for a state championship run increase, her goal being to end her high school career with a state championship ring.

“I would like to make a state championship run,” Palaian said. “I think if any year, this is the year we have the ability to do it with all the talent that we have, but to do that we need to work together more. We have a lot of individual talent and we haven’t yet figured out how to get everyone working together. But once we do, we have a really good chance of getting where we need to go.”

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About the Contributor
Sinclair Richman
Sinclair Richman, Sports Associate Managing Editor
Sinclair Richman is a junior and this is her third year writing for The Southerner. In her free time, she plays basketball and soccer for Midtown and is a part of the BETA Club and Latin club. She is excited to continue working on the paper.

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