Girls soccer blog: St. Pius, Marist to meet again, this time in Round 2

St. Pius and Marist will meet in the girls soccer playoffs for the fifth consecutive season, but unlike the previous four times, the winner will still have some work to do to bring home another state championship.

The DeKalb County private-school powerhouses have met in the final each of the past four seasons, with St. Pius winning the first three matchups and Marist taking the title in 2018. This year, however, they will meet in the second round, in large part because of Marist’s runner-up finish in Region 7-AAAA that put the War Eagles in the same quarter of the bracket as Region 8 champion St. Pius. The teams will meet at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at St. Pius. 

Both teams advanced with 10-0 victories in the first round. St. Pius knocked out Chapel Hill, and Marist took care of LaFayette. The winner of Wednesday’s game will play Northside-Columbus or Spalding in the quarterfinals next week. 

St. Pius has won 11 state championships, tied for second-best in GHSA history behind Westminster’s 12. The loss to Marist in last year’s final broke the Golden Lions’ state-record streak of consecutive state titles at five. Marist has won 10 championships. 

The last time the teams played in different classifications, in the 2013 and 2014 seasons, both won state titles both years, Marist in AAAA and St. Pius in AAA. 

Here’s a look at where the playoffs stand heading into Wednesday’s second round: 

Top-ranked teams roll, mostly 

Johns Creek, the No. 1 team in Class AAAAAA, narrowly avoided what would’ve been the biggest upset of the first round when it outscored Sprayberry 4-2 in penalty kicks to escape with a 1-0 victory. Johns Creek (16-2-1), seeking its first state championship, will host Lanier in the second round. The other six teams ranked No. 1 by Eurosport had a much easier time, outscoring their opponents 60-0. Those included AAAAAAA Lambert (10-0 vs. South Gwinnett), AAAAA McIntosh (14-0 vs. Wayne County), AAAA St. Pius (10-0 vs. Chapel Hill), AAA Westminster (10-0 vs. East Jackson), AA St. Vincent’s (10-0 vs. Washington County) and A First Presbyterian (6-0 vs. Trinity Christian). 

Home-field advantage 

Region champions, which earned No. 1 seeds for the playoffs, took advantage of the opportunity to play at home in the first round, posting a 46-2 against fourth-seeded teams. The only two region champions from the six highest classifications that failed to advance were Tucker (4-AAAAAA), which lost to Coffee 2-1, and KIPP Atlanta Collegiate (6-AA), which lost to Pepperell 1-0. In the Class A public-school and private-school tournaments, which took only the top two teams from each area, the champions were 12-4. Area champs that were knocked out were Chattahoochee County (4-A public), Mount Paran Christian (5-A private), Savannah Country Day (1-A private) and Mount Pisgah Christian (6-A private). 

Don’t forget about Whitewater 

Whitewater, the only unranked defending state champion in the playoff field, kept its hopes alive for a second consecutive state title with a 2-0 victory against Statesboro in the first round. Bailey Vessell scored on a free kick midway through the first half, and Camille Messina added a goal with about 16 minutes remaining. Whitewater is the No. 3 seed from Region 3-AAAAA, behind top-ranked McIntosh and No. 4 Starr’s Mill. The Wildcats also were No. 3 seeds last year before going on their playoff run, which ended with a victory in penalty kicks against McIntosh in the final. Whitewater (9-8-2) travels to sixth-ranked Veterans for the second round. 

Second-round games to watch 

The St. Pius-Marist game is the most high-profile of the second-round contests, but there are plenty of other games matching top-10 opponents. One worth watching is top-ranked First Presbyterian against No. 2 Wesleyan in Class A (private). Wesleyan beat First Presbyterian 4-1 in the 2017 final, but First Presbyterian bounced back to win the title in 2018 with a 2-0 victory over Athens Academy last year. Other top games include No. 1 Lambert vs. No. 6 Peachtree Ridge in Class AAAAAAA; No. 3 Dacula vs. No. 5 Dunwoody in AAAAAA; No. 4 Starr’s Mill vs. No. 5 Union Grove in AAAAA; No. 2 Flowery Branch vs. No. 6 North Oconee in AAAA; No. 4 Greater Atlanta Christian vs. No. 6 Jackson County and No. 2 Dawson County vs. No. 7 Jefferson in AAA; and No. 2 Vidalia vs. No. 8 Fitzgerald in AA.

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