I'll be the first to admit that I'm not a big soccer fan, but the success of the girl's soccer teams in Columbia County deserves recognition.
At press time, Greenbrier and Lakeside are preparing for the AAAA State quarterfinals, while Harlem plays in the AAA quarterfinals.
The Lady Bulldogs are ranked No. 2 in the State by Soccerinfo.com, with an impressive record of 20-1.
Harlem Coach George Berry has some major weapons at his disposal, headed by a couple of sophomores. Elissa Botts and Jamie Nevin have been stellar offensively this season, and senior Brandy Braswell anchors the defense.
The Lady Bulldogs square off with perennial power Lovett out of Atlanta. Coach Berry had high praise for his opponent.
"It will be a good match. They play a really tough schedule in Atlanta. We will have a hard time with them," said Berry.
Harlem breezed into the quarterfinals with an 8-0 victory over Fitzgerald. Nevin (with three) and Botts (with two) combined to score five of the team's eight goals, and Beyra Ortega chipped in with two goals and two assists of her own.
Greenbrier rode their star, Nicki Gray, into the quarterfinals. Gray scored both of Greenbrier's goals in the Pack's 2-1 win over Alexander. The two goals gave Gray 62 for her career, tying her with Brooks Daniel for the most in Wolfpack history.
Greenbrier (14-4-1) will now battle St. Pius for a spot in the State Final Four.
Another key for Greenbrier's win was tremendous team defense. They were able to limit Alexander to just one shot on goal the entire match. St. Pius advanced to the quarterfinals with a 2-0 shutout of Salem.
For Lakeside, Jamie Lake lead the way with two goals and Carty Dunn was terrific in goal as the Lady Panthers beat a pesky bunch from Northgate.
Lakeside stands at 14-4-2 as they prepared to play Forsyth Central in the quarterfinals. The match, like Harlem's and Greenbrier's, was supposed to be played Saturday, but Forsyth Central's prom was Saturday so Lakeside Coach Donny Rogers moved the game to Friday.
Lakeside has followed up last year's Final Four appearance with another terrific season. Several of the Lady Panthers players have garnered scholarship offers this season. Rebecca Bohler has signed to play at Samford University in Birmingham, Ala.
However, Jamie Lake, Kim Leeds and Carty Dunn all turned down offers to go the academic route. Dunn has been highly recruited, with offers from schools throughout the Southeast including UNC-Charlotte and College of Charleston.
It should come as no surprise that Lakeside's players are so interested in academics, because they recently were awarded a national academic team award from the NSCAA (National Soccer Coaches Athletic Association).
Only 250 schools across the country were given this prestigious honor based on the team's academic standing. In his two season's at Lakeside, coach Rogers has set a pretty high standard for himself, having guided Lakeside to the Final Four last season and now he has them in position again in 2004.
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