Athens Academy’s girls soccer team wasted no time locking down its seventh consecutive region championship.
The Lady Spartans needed to beat Prince Avenue Christian School this past Monday in order to win Region 8-A-Private and extend their region title streak to seven seasons. Within the first 4:02 of the match, they were up 4-0 and had the title in the bag.
They went on to finish off the game early via mercy rule and win 10-0.
“It feels amazing,” Kate Garth said about winning the region crown. “It takes the whole team. It's more than the 11 of us on the field – it takes our whole team.”
Lucy Waugh got things rolling Monday.
Waugh scored the first goal at 38:50. She assisted on the next goal, which was scored by ClaraJane Williams. Waugh won a corner kick soon after and helped get the ball to Williams again for the team’s third goal.
Williams completed a hat trick with 35:58 left in the first half, capping off an explosive start to the game.
“We want to start fast and finish all our chances because you never know when you'll get more later in the game, so we just start off fast,” Williams said. “To get those four goals under our belts, we can start playing a little bit more calm and not worry about messing up.”
Of course, the rivalry between the Lady Spartans and Lady Wolverines played a part, too.
“I went to Prince, so I consider this one of our biggest rivals,” Garth said. “I guess our entire team does that. We put in a lot of effort into this game.”
Williams notched her fourth goal 9:29 before halftime, making it a 5-0 game.
Mia Dugas scored at the 38:15 mark of the second half. Williams scored again shortly thereafter, drilling her fifth and final goal at the 35:36 mark.
Garth then rattled off two-straight goals. She scored at the 24:13 mark and then nailed a penalty kick to make it a 9-0 game with 4:48 to play.
Lauren Clementz ended the game with a goal at the 3:50 mark.
That victory gave the Lady Spartans 10-straight wins. Their offense dominated across that stretch and during the season as a whole.
Garth said the team’s chemistry is a big factor behind its offensive success.
“We are a very close-knit team,” Garth said. “We're all very close with each other, so we all know how we play. We've got a couple of girls on our team that play the same club (team), so I guess we just know how each other plays and where to put the ball in certain situations.”
In addition to regularly being on the same page, Williams said the Lady Spartans’ talent helps fuel the offense as well.
“We really just know that we're one of the stronger teams in our region,” Williams said. “We're just confident on the ball, scoring and midfield. We have a great front six so we're able to pass the ball around but we also know when we want to take our chances.”
Through Monday’s game, Athens Academy had only allowed five goals all season. Those came in a 12-2 win over Tallulah Falls and a 3-1 loss to Pinecrest Academy.
The Lady Spartans launched their 10-game winning streak after the loss to Pinecrest. Across those 10 games, they allowed zero goals.
Athens Academy head coach Steve Stewart said his defenders know where to position themselves, which allows them to recover and stifle opposing teams even when they make mistakes.
“Defense comes from our spacing,” Stewart said. “We're always in good positions to cover because we always give good support. If your spacing's good, even if you turn the ball over, you're in positions to win it back. When you get in trouble is when you take risks and you leave yourself exposed.”
Stewart pointed to Hayden Wood and Clementz as two of the team’s strongest defensive players this season.
The region is wrapped up, but the Lady Spartans feel they must improve to be ready for the state playoffs.
Garth and Williams said the team needs to work on its possession skills across the next few weeks.
Stewart agreed and added that he wants to see his team play against tough competition.
The Lady Spartans did just that Tuesday when they played at Lovett after press time. Lovett entered the game 6-1.
The rest of the regular season schedule is filled with teams that Stewart hopes will get his squad ready for a playoff push.
“We have felt confident all year about our region,” Stewart said. “We picked up a good Lovett team so we're looking now to try to get ready for the playoffs. We've got a decent Mt. De Sales team coming in here next week and then probably the best test we have all year will be North Oconee for our last regular season game. Winning region's important because we'll host, probably, two rounds. That's important.”