Lakeside's state title climb ended one goal shy of the peak Saturday. The 3-2 loss to Marist stopped the Panthers' quest to become the first Georgia High School Association soccer team from Columbia County to win a state championship.
Lakeside's Rebecca Bohler (right) and Marist's Kat Morrell battle for control of the ball during state
championship soccer action at Lakeside High School last Saturday afternoon.
Photo by Michael Holahan
But that's the only part of the Lakeside season that was anything but a resounding success.
"Without a doubt this was the greatest year in Lakeside soccer history," Lakeside coach Donny Rogers said.
That's because Lakeside's journey to the GHSA Class AAAA title game in 2004 should not be measured how it ended, but in the strides taken in reaching the championship game.
"Nobody expected this team to make the state finals this year," Lakeside goalkeeper Carty Dunn said. "We proved a lot about ourselves and our program. It was an honor to just be here. Of course, we wanted to win badly, but we gave it our all."
The team learned all about that journey prior to Saturday's state final against Marist. Rogers could only recall the last name of the woman who spoke about the team.
Mrs. Brandon, he said, was the first soccer mom in Lakeside girls soccer history.
"Her daughter now lives in Seattle and follows the team all the time," Rogers said. "Her daughter was the first soccer player in Lakeside history. She played here back in 1989 and 1990. There was no girls team. She was on the boys team. She had to help fight for everything the girls here now enjoy. After speaking with the team, Mrs. Brandon presented the team captains with the first official soccer jersey in team history.
"It was pretty touching," Rogers said. "She looked for that shirt for two straight nights before she found it. It was a real nice gesture. That shows where our programs have come. No girls to the state championship game in 15 years."
Senior Rebecca Bohler will always have a special place in her heart for the last four of those seasons.
"This has made my whole high school experience," Bohler said. "These girls are my very best friends. One more goal might have made us state champions, but this has been a pretty perfect season with this team."
Marist standout Maggie Horne went back to Atlanta impressed with the evolving standard of the Lakeside team.
"That's one of the best teams we played," Horne said. "It was a great, great match in the final. They definitely proved to me and everyone else that they belonged in the state title game."
That's what made it so hard for Rogers to address the team after the game. He took them to the northwest corner of the field at Panthers stadium. He looked into every players' disappointed eyes.
It was natural.
"It was hard to tell a team that played well enough to win that they didn't win a state championship," Rogers said.
Each of the team's seniors will have her own pioneering story to tell one day.
"We've got one great senior group," Rogers said. "We've got 12 seniors here that have really turned around this whole soccer program. We are at an elite status right now. Those seniors have worked their butts off for Lakeside soccer and are responsible for almost all of that."
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