Their jerseys read, "Jaguars," but when the U-12 girls all-star squad representing Columbia County took the field, they went by a different name.
"We were the Spider Monkeys," Elizabeth Carter, an 11-year-old sixth-grader at Grovetown Middle School, said of the team's defensive players. "It was a name (coach Jamie Plowman) made up. We were supposed to be ready and attack the offensive players."
The squad used the nickname to full effect during the Georgia Recreation and Parks Association State Soccer Tournament on Dec. 3-4 at Blanchard Woods Park.
The Jaguars allowed only two goals in three games while earning the state championship.
"If you win a state championship, your name gets etched in the sidewalk (at Blanchard Woods Park)," said Dave Lloveras, who coached the team alongside Plowman and Dexter Ray. "So we kind of made it the 'Quest for the Sidewalk.'"
The team practiced six nights each week for four weeks in preparation for the state tournament.
"Every day, I looked forward to going to practice," Carter said. "It was just really fun to do because we were there with a great group of girls that could all play soccer. It was something we could relate to because soccer is our passion."
The Jaguars defeated Walton County 10-0 to open the six-team tournament. Then, a 6-0 win over Sumter County the following morning put them in the championship game.
In the finals, the Jaguars won 5-2 over Bartow County, though Lloveras said the final score was deceiving. They went ahead, 3-0, but then allowed consecutive goals.
Only in the final few minutes did the Jaguars add their final two goals.
"When they won, they went berserk," Lloveras said.
The offense was balanced, with six of the seven offensive players scoring at least one goal.
Kylee Earnest led the way with six goals, and Megan Giles scored five.
Earnest, a 10-year-old fifth-grader at Martinez Elementary School, said deciding which was her most memorable goal was easy. It was the one she scored with her left foot.
"I think Alyssa (Deangelo) passed me the ball," she said. "Then I dribbled it down, and I juked like every single one of them. I passed it to the middle and she passed it back to me, and I scored."
Seven of the 12 girls had won the U-10 championship the year before. That means those seven will have an opportunity to play for back-to-back U-12 championships next fall.
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