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Girls soccer makes early exit, falls in second round of state playoffs

Courtesy of Ida Centner
After three seasons of deep playoff runs that included Elite Eight, Final Four and State Championship appearances, the girls soccer team bowed out early in the Round of Sixteen on Apr. 23, losing 2-1 to Greater Atlanta Christian.

After going 8-0 in region play, the Knights girls soccer team faced an early exit in playoffs, losing to Greater Atlanta Christian 2-1 on April 23. Head coach Blair Barksdale said the ending was disappointing.

“It was a very tough ending,” Barksdale said. “The girls worked so hard this season and overcame a lot of adversity. GAC is one of the top teams in the state. That match was a state championship-caliber game and it just wasn’t our night to win.”

Senior co-captain and goalie Ellie Palaian said the team lost because the Knights went in too comfortable and GAC’s preparation outdid them.

“I think we got too comfortable,” Palaian said. “We dominated our region and pulled off a tie against Marist, who is listed as number six in the state for all classifications, and on top of that, we blew out Eastside 8-0 in the first round of playoffs. During the game it was obvious GAC had done their research, double-teaming our attackers and they even knew the direction McKenzie’s penalty was going to go. We were expected to win and we should have won, but we got in our heads and got down on ourselves after they scored their goals, and despite our best effort, we just dug ourselves too big of a hole.”

Senior co-captain Carolyn Harty said the game came down to who wanted it more, and GAC had Midtown beat in that sense. 

“In the end, they played like they wanted it more,” Harty said. “We were the better team all around, we had more possession, more shots on goal, more opportunities, but when the clock went to 00:0, they were running harder.” 

Palaian said the team wasn’t eliminated due to a lack of talent, and the team’s future is still bright.

“In all honesty, I was a bit disappointed,” Palaian said. “We had a great season and we accomplished some amazing things, so of course I wanted us to get further. I think we had the talent and every tool necessary, we just didn’t execute it perfectly. But I am confident that this team will only continue to grow in the coming seasons.”

The team this year had a lot of talented players who were able to step up when they needed to. Harty accredits much of the starting line-up to the team’s success.

“Senior Ellie Palaian really came through in some key moments,” Harty said. “Sophomore Eve Nahmias excelled as a defender and played a position she isn’t as comfortable in and sophomore McKenzie Godfrey is hands down one of the best players I’ve ever played with. Allie Planeaux was also a force to be reckoned with on the field, on top of being an extremely talented player she has a lot of soccer knowledge and doesn’t hesitate to share it with the team. The team as a whole grew to work together so well that when we were playing 100%, we were definitely one of the best teams in the state.”

Sophomore Godfrey said the team was able to grow a lot from the beginning of the season.

“The team got much better after the first couple of games, we really started to click and work together, which helped us become much more successful throughout the season,” Godfrey said. “If we played our best game, I think we could have beaten GAC and moved onto the next round.”

Harty said the injuries faced throughout the season caused some adversity the Knights had to fight through to make it as far as they did.

“We had some early season injuries like mine and Hudson Joyner that set us back,” Harty said. “It took us a second to nail the chemistry in the beginning of the season, but our younger players really stepped up to fill the gap that injuries put on the team.”

Palaian said that the team had high expectations put on them at the beginning of the year, which impacted the team mentally.

“The expectations came with a lot of pressure and hope, which made the loss on Tuesday so hard,” Palaian said. “This was the year, this might have been Midtown soccer’s best chance to win a State title with the region changes next year, so it was disappointing. But we were expected to be number one since the beginning of the season, and instead of putting our heads down and working until we secured that spot, we went with it and I think it got in our heads and affected our play. This is an extremely talented team, which is why I think our mental game was the only thing stopping us.”

Godfrey said, despite strong, key players leaving, the team will continue to be a State Championship contending team.

“Even though we got out when we did, this team is still an amazing team,” Godfrey said. “We’re losing some really talented players, but we are keeping a lot of talent as well, and because we had so few seniors most of the team will be returning, meaning we can continue to grow and develop off of each other. I think that we can still be a top team and I hope to win a State Championship next year.”

Despite the earlier than expected end to this season, Barksdale said the team will come back stronger next year.

“The team will be back as one of the top teams in the state,” Barksdale said. “They had a year of playing together to help them next year. They will know each other’s playing styles which will help them start the season ahead of others.”

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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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