No Class A public school has ever won a state championship in girls soccer, but that’s about to change.
For the first time, the Georgia High School Association will conduct separate tournaments for the public schools and private schools in the lowest classification this year. Each 16-team tournament will be made up of the top two schools in each of eight areas.
Just six public schools made the 32-team field in the combined Class A tournament last year, and only one – Towns County – advanced to the second round. The Indians beat Christian Heritage in the first round before losing to Walker 5-0 in the second round. The other five public schools in the tournament lost their first-round matches against private schools by a combined score of 48-0.
Towns County is the top team in Area 8-A (public) this season.
“I think that public schools knowing they now have a chance to make it will allow for more schools to develop a team, and more girls will decide to participate in soccer,” Towns County coach John Cornett said. “We have made the playoffs for four years in a row now. Last year, we advanced to the second round for the first time in school history. We had a very good team. … I love the idea that a public school now has the chance to capture the crown. This split will help the sport to develop.”
Girls soccer became a state championship sport in 1992, with McIntosh winning the title in an all-classification event. The championships were split into Class AAAA and Class AAA fields in 1995, and a combined Class AA/A tournament was added in 1997. Private schools won all 14 of the AA/A titles.
Class A got its own separate tournament beginning in 2011, with private and public schools combined. The private schools added to their trophy haul by winning the next eight championships, including three by First Presbyterian, the defending Class A champion and the current No. 1-ranked team.
The 22-year drought for the public schools will end on May 16, when the public and private champions will be crowned.
“I think the GHSA made the right decision in splitting public and private soccer,” Cornett said. “There are several reasons, and I speak for Towns County only. First, we need all of our athletes to play multiple sports because we are a small school. Because of that, our girls soccer players cannot play travel or club soccer. Soccer is one of those sports where skills need to be kept up the entire year. There is a huge advantage to having a soccer team come in in the spring having already played a season in the fall. Second, because Towns County is at the top of the state, it is also tough for any of our girls to travel two hours to play on a competitive travel team. I had one player last year, Brooke Barrett, who is now playing at Georgia Southern, and one player this year.”
Georgia Military coach Tommy Howell agreed. His team can complete a six-game sweep of its Area 2-A public school rivals with a victory Tuesday night against ACE Charter.
“The separation of private and public allows us to compete with other small Class A schools that may only have seasonal soccer players, like we do,” Howell said. “Because we have to share athletes, our girls compete in other sports during the other seasons and only play soccer in the spring.”
*Here are the key dates for the upcoming girls soccer state playoffs:
April 23: First round (Classes A, AAA, AAAAA and AAAAAAA)
April 25: First round (Classes AA, AAAA and AAAAAA)
May 1: Second round (all classes)
May 7-8: Semifinals (Class A) and Quarterfinals (Classes AA through AAAAAAA)
May 14: Semifinals (Classes AA through AAAAAAA)
May 16: Finals (Class A)
May 17-18: Finals (Classes AA through AAAAAAA)
Note: State finals will be played at Mercer University and McEachern High School. Classifications will be assigned a location at a later date.
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