GHSA Soccer State Championship: Friday Recap

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Lassiter’s girls needed all of regulation, both 10 minute extra time periods and a 3-2 shootout victory over Cambridge to capture the program’s second title and first since it won the 2016 6A title, the state’s highest class at the time.

However, the victory meant much more to the Trojan hopefuls than just another championship. Over the summer, the team and school suffered a tragedy that no coach, program, fanbase or family wants or deserves to endure.

On June 26, 2021, rising senior Libby Rountree and her father, Chris, were killed in a car accident in South Georgia while returning from vacation in Florida. The team weathered the loss as best it could. It prepared throughout the fall and then pieced together a run of success that will be remembered, and honored, for years to come.

“It’s destiny, man,” said Lassiter head coach Robbie Galvin. “We just wanted to honor her all year and we just found a different level and she was with us today. I can’t overstate that. She was here.”

And with the manner in which Lassiter won, maybe there were two people looking down upon the Trojans.

Lassiter missed its first two attempts in penalty kicks and things looked grim but freshman goalie Malia Loadwick stood strong, found an unseen determination in the ether and made four saves that will live in the lore of the Lassiter soccer program for years to come.

“We didn’t break,” he said. “We bent a little, but we didn’t break. My freshman goalkeeper made four PK saves. Four. She stood on her head today. A freshman. She got it done.”

Like it has since the tragedy, Lassiter weathered the storm behind the stunning performance from its freshman goalkeeper.

Following the first two misses, senior midfielder Celeste Nader, senior defender Riley Christopher and sophomore defender Campbell Stoll scored on penalty kicks to get Lassiter on the board.

Loadwick’s mental toughness and physical quickness helped the Trojans put Cambridge away. The Bears found penalty kick goals from sophomore forward Aurora Gaines and freshman midfielder Aspyn Stucke.

“Battling through tragedy and heartbreak, going through hell, it brought this team together,” he said. “It brought this team together. Early in the season, about a month in, I had several girls come to me and say that there was something different about this team. And they weren’t talking about talent. The culture, the climate and the way this team bonded was different.”

For the Trojans, Libby’s No. 19 was put on their practice jerseys as a memorial and according to Galvin, the number will be present in some form on the Trojans’ championship rings. On the boys team, which defeated Dalton 3-1 in the boys 6A match, Jack Frierson wears that number to honor his friend.

“Her mom was here tonight,” Galvin said. “It took a moment to get to her. She needed a moment to herself. But I felt Libby the entire game. She was here. It’s a Hollywood story. Her presence was here. We could all feel it. It was like we had another defender out there tonight.”

To donate to the Libby Rountree Memorial Scholarship Fund follow the link.

6A Boys

Lassiter 3, Dalton 1

Lassiter entered the 6A title match having not won a state championship since 1996. Last season, the Trojans did not advance past the first round. But, after watching the girls team defeat Cambridge in emotional fashion in the first match of the night, the boys found motivation.

That motivation led the Trojans to a 3-1 victory over two-time defending champion Dalton in the 6A championship match. Dalton entered the title match having won the past two championships and five titles since 2013.

Senior midfielder Max Albertson scored one goal for Lassiter and senior forward Colin Nedblake netted two to lead the Trojans. Dalton’s senior midfielder Yahir Paez gave the Catamounts its lone goal.

7A boys

Harrison 2, Pebblebrook 1

Harrison’s last loss came one year and one day ago when it fell 2-2 (4-2) to South Forsyth in the quarterfinals of the Class 7A playoffs. It’s been 12 months, one day and 23 wins later and after a goal from senior midfielder AJ Daniels in extra time, the Hoyas are the Class 7A champions.

“The boys this year, they were willing to do everything and anything for each other,” said Harrison coach Jon Gross. “They fought so hard, so to see them get rewarded is probably the best part.”

Daniels’ goal came with 6:02 to play in the overtime period and gave Harrison a 2-1 lead which it would hold onto for the victory.

“AJ is just a dream player,” Gross said. “He started as a freshman and has just been incredible all year. It’s great because he does so many subtle things that the fans or players might not even notice. To see him hit that game-winner was incredible.”

Harrison took the 1-0 lead after a goal from junior midfielder Reeves Buecker with 2:33 left to play in the first half.

“And that first goal in a state championship game is so important,” Gross said. “Reeves was so composed and just buried it.”

Harrison won the Class 5A title in 2007 before its second championship this season. Gross, who was an assistant on the 2005 and 2006 Hoyas teams, took over the head coaching job in 2007, won a state title and then waited some time for his second one.

“I have one assistant from the 2007 team,” Gross said. “And one from our two final four teams in 2013-14. Those guys help bring a through-line from those teams to today and help with the culture that we want in our program.”

The Hoyas finished the season 23-0 and 10-0 through Region 3-7A. Pebblebrook found scoring from Gustavo Isidore. The Falcons were trying for the program’s first title and finished the year 19-3-1.

Class 7A Girls

West Forsyth 3, Mill Creek 2

Do we go for the win or do you go for penalty kicks? That’s what head coach Jason Galt asked his girls at the start of the second overtime period.

“Let’s win it,” they said.

“Ok,” Galt said.

And from there, the game plan was initiated, a formation shift was made and the rest was, well, West Forsyth soccer history.

Nine minutes and some seconds later, sophomore Michelle Moskau scored on a free kick from 21 yards with :39 seconds left in the second overtime period to put West Forsyth up 3-2 – avoid penalty kicks – and give the Wolverines an overtime victory over Mill Creek in the 7A girls championship match.

The victory awarded West Forsyth its second overall and second consecutive championship in the final day of GHSA competition at McEachern in Powder Springs.

West Forsyth had to come from behind to secure the victory after Mill Creek took a 1-0 lead on a Morgan Hill header at the 35 minute mark of the second half. West Forsyth tied the match on a goal from Abby Bates with just four minutes left in regulation.

“First off,” Galt said. “Mill Creek kicked our butts in the first half. We played them in the second round last season and they came out super hard then and tonight too. That coach (Vince Hayes) does a great job over there. He gets them ready to play and they came out and dominated us.”

In the extra time, Maren Parker put West Forsyth up 2-1 on a goal from 25 yards out but Mill Creek answered. With 6:25 left, Olivia Needham fired three shots – the first two of which were blocked – however the third attempt found the net and tied the contest 2-2 before Moskau’s game winner.

“The first overtime we went up, we were feeling good,” Galt said. “They ended up tying it again and so we go into the second overtime and started the formation we run and we put Michelle up top and we got down there, got that free kick and she is just money from that range. To win a game like that was great. I always tell the girls, someone is going to be a hero tonight so don’t be selfish and don’t try to make it happen, but someone’s going to be a hero. Tonight it was Michelle Moskau.”

Mill Creek was trying for the program’s first championship.