If Lakeside High School head coach Nick Edmond was worried about a letdown after his Lady Panthers won the Region 2-AAAAA title, he shouldn’t have been.
The Lady Panthers, Region 2’s No. 1 seed, came out firing on all cylinders Wednesday night and downed the Lady Wolverines of Union Grove, 3-0, in the opener of the Georgia High School Association Class AAAAA state girls soccer tournament.
“We did well controlling the ball from the start,” said Edmond. “The first (goal) we pressed them in the corner and got after it. It was good, they came out strong from the start and they got over the hangover of winning the region.”
It was senior Cassandra Wade that jump started the Lady Panthers (13-3) offense in the first half. She forced a turnover deep in Lady Wolverines territory, got to the right-side end line and crossed the ball to Clarissa Hopkins who was alone in front of the net. Hopkins’ easy tap-in made it 1-0 with 28:38 left before the break.
“We wanted to come out the way we did against Houston County (in the region semifinals), play the way we know how to play and not let the region final get into our heads,” said Wade. “We want to go far.”
The Lady Panthers (13-3) will have the chance to advance to the state quarterfinals on Wednesday. They play host to Region 3’s No. 2 seed Richmond Hill, who were 4-1 winners over Lee County.
With just under 26 minutes to play in the first half, the Wade-to-Hopkins connection almost struck again. Wade fed Hopkins running down the middle and her shot got past the goalkeeper but bounced off the right post, across the goal mouth and out of bounds.
Edmond liked what he got out of the junior Hopkins Wednesday night.
“She definitely stepped up and she’s one of our better players coming off the bench,” said Edmond, adding the whole squad has bought into the team concept. “Hopkins comes in and gives us a spark off the bench and today was a difference. She played really well.”
Devin Haygood would get the Lady Panthers a 2-0 advantage at 22:13, working free in front of the net to send home Kallie Beckham’s free kick from 40 yards away.
Beckham would then assist on the Lady Panthers’ third and final tally, getting the ball to Wade who scored her team-leading 28th goal of the year with 7:16 to go in the half.
Many of the Lady Wolverines’ shot attempts sailed over the crossbar, but when called upon, goalie Rachel Hardin was there to make five saves for the Lady Panthers.
Goals: Lakeside-Clarissa Hopkins, Devin Haygood, Cassandra Wade. Assist: Lakeside-Wade, Kallie Beckham (2). Goalkeepers: Union Grove-Sydney Durham (2); Lakeside-Rachel Hardin (5).