Twelve girls from Columbia County ran onto a soccer field in Gainesville, Ga., last month and left with a big trophy.
The U-10 All-Star team won the state championship Dec. 1 after first defeating Hall County and then beating Calhoun County.
The team was composed of 9-and 10-year-old players. Coaches from throughout the county selected the top nine players. The head coach of the team chose the remaining three players.
"I have never been to a more rewarding game," said Rachel Ellis, the head coach for the team. "The parents and players gave it their all."
Ellis also coached last year when the All-Star team was coed, but it lost the final game in a shoot-out. It was the team's first win since 2002.
The Columbia County team beat Hall County 3-2 on two goals by Lindsey Dowdle and another by Callista Eckert. The team was down 2-1 at halftime in the second game against Calhoun County, but the defense didn't allow another score. Then, Jessica Ellis made two goals in the second half to win.
"The desire to win on the faces of the girls was unbeatable," the coach said.
Lester Ellis, who is also a soccer coach and the coach's husband, said this was the most exciting game he has ever been a part of.
"My most memorable moment was when the referee blew the whistle," he said. "The girls went crazy and tackled their coach to the ground."
The team's victory was the culmination of a month of hard work before the match.
The squad started training the first week of November, missing only Sundays and Thanksgiving, Ellis said.
"We practiced four to five times a week and some Saturdays for at least two hours," said Helen Eckert, who also helped coach the team.
On the first day of practice, Ellis said, she took the girls to the Walk of Fame at Patriots Park and told them their goal was to be the next team engraved there.
Ellis said she ordered championship T-shirts after the game.
The team will be recognized at the Augusta Lynx game Friday night.
Though the game was played more than a month ago, Ellis said she is still in shock but is happy the girls learned something.
"Whatever they learned," she said, "they can take it with them and each will always be a state champion."
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