Augusta Prep's Lea Xenakis (left) battles for the ball with Westminster's Charlotte Boya (center) and Alice Huston during last week's game. Xenakis was fouled, leading to a penalty-kick goal by Rebecca Smith.
Photo by Mike Howell
The Augusta Preparatory Day School soccer team held a comfortable lead over local rival Westminster last week, but with only a couple of minutes remaining in the match, the Lady Cavaliers weren't planning a celebration.
Prep was playing relentless soccer until the final whistle.
With a 4-0 lead, most teams would be content to coast to the conclusion, but the Lady Cavaliers aren't like most teams.
Callan Cudd hustled downfield on an overlapping run, and teammate Caroline Hull dropped a perfect pass.
Meanwhile, on the Augusta Prep sidelines, coach Doug Williamson watched the action and assessed the textbook attack with one word.
Augusta Prep has wowed a lot of folks this season. The Lady Cavs blanked Westminster in the home match and took control of the region race.
The last time Prep beat the Wildcats was three years ago, when current senior co-captain Rebecca Smith was a freshman.
Smith's hat trick paced Prep to the victory, but she was much more satisfied with the teamwork exhibited than by her own goal-scoring exploits.
"We've got a really good team," Smith said. "If we keep this up, we'll do well in the state playoffs."
Augusta Prep closed the week with a 3-0 win at Trinity Christian. Heading into spring break, Prep held a 9-1-1 record, with the loss and tie coming against First Presbyterian Day, the No. 2 ranked Class AAA squad in the Georgia Independent Schools Association.
Success is just part of the story. The Lady Cavaliers have outscored opponents 61-5 this season, and with four more regular-season games remaining, plus the state playoffs, Prep should easily pass the old school record of 11 victories in a season.
"We've been dominating teams," Williamson said. "One of the things our girls are learning is to play hard for 80 minutes. We're learning what it takes to be a winner."
The learning process began in 2002, during Williamson's first campaign as coach. Prep dropped some tough matches and finished with a 7-9 record, but the Lady Cavs laid the groundwork for 2003.
"The system we play is so advanced," Cudd said. "We learned a lot last year and just picked up where we left off. This is our year."
While Williamson is renowned for his tactical approach to coaching, the players have responded by executing the game plan.
Smith, Hull and Cudd control the midfield, Lea Xenakis and Rachel Gerstein spark the front-line attack, and the defense is anchored by Elana Freeman, Mobley Moss and Tiffany Hedrick.
Prep's defense has been so strong that goalkeeper Katelynn Gibbs has hardly broken a sweat en route to recording six shutouts.
After Prep polished off Westminster, notching just the third win in 17 meetings with the Wildcats, Williamson said a little more than "Wow!"
Augusta Prep's Rachel Gerstein (right) collides with Westminster's Alice Huston
during last week's game.
Photo by Mike Howell
"This is great soccer. You guys are on a roll," he told the players. "I don't know if you know how incredibly good you are."
When Augusta Prep returns to action next week, the Lady Cavs might discover how good they are. With wins over Windsor Academy (Tuesday), Central Fellowship (Thursday) and Westminster (Saturday), Prep would clinch the region title and secure a first-round bye in the state tournament, which begins later this month.
The prospect of a landmark soccer season might prompt a coach to pat himself on the back, but Williamson wants to give credit where it's due.
"I'm really pleased with what they're doing," he said. "Coaches don't win by magic. You win with talent and hard work."
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