Girls soccer blog: Playoffs begin Thursday in 6A, 4A, 2A

First-round action in the girls soccer state tournaments continues Thursday when Classes 6A, 4A and 2A begin their playoffs.

The defending champions in each of those classes appears primed for a run at a repeat. Reigning champions North Oconee of Class 4A and Lovett of 2A enter the playoffs with the No. 1 ranking, while Johns Creek comes in at No. 4 in Class 6A.

Here’s a look the classifications that begin play Thursday.

Class 6A

*No. 1 team: Buford

*2021 champion: Johns Creek

*Overview: For all of Buford’s athletic success across the board, it has never won a state title in soccer, girls or boys. This could be the Wolves’ year, as the girls team enters the playoffs as the favorite with an 18-0 record and the No. 1 ranking. The Wolves lost to eventual runner-up Cambridge 2-1 in the semifinals last season. Cambridge is ranked No. 2, just ahead of Lassiter and defending champion Johns Creek, which finally broke through for its first title last season after years of being near the top. No school from outside of Gwinnett, Cobb or north Fulton has won the championship in 6A since the classification was formed in 2011.

*Worth noting: Shiloh is making its first playoff appearance since 2001 when it travels to Pope for its first-round game. Shiloh, the No. 3 seed from Region 8, went 13-5 in the regular season, with two losses against Buford and another against Johns Creek.

*First-round matchups:

(R1 #3) Valdosta at (R3 #2) Evans

(R7 #4) River Ridge at (R5 #1) Dalton

(R6 #3) Kennesaw Mountain at (R8 #2) Habersham Central

(R4 #4) Westlake at (R2 #1) Richmond Hill

(R3 #3) Heritage-Conyers at (R1 #2) Lee County

(R5 #4) Paulding County at (R7 #1) Cambridge

(R8 #3) Shiloh at (R6 #2) Pope

(R2 #4) Effingham County at (R4 #1) North Atlanta

(R2 #3) South Effingham at (R4 #2) Lakeside-DeKalb

(R8 #4) Lanier at (R6 #1) Lassiter

(R7 #3) Johns Creek at (R5 #2) South Paulding

(R1 #4) Northside-Warner Robins at (R3 #1) Lakeside-Evans

(R4 #3) Tucker at (R2 #2) Glynn Academy

(R6 #4) Wheeler at (R8 #1) Buford

(R5 #3) Carrollton at (R7 #2) Chattahoochee

(R3 #4) Grovetown at (R1 #1) Houston County

Class 4A

*No. 1 team: North Oconee

*2021 champion: North Oconee

*Overview: Marist and St. Pius had combined to win seven consecutive Class 4A titles until North Oconee broke through for its first championship last year, defeating Marist 3-2 in the state final. The Titans are the favorites again this season, holding the No. 1 spot in the rankings and entering the playoffs with a 17-0 record. Although St. Pius is a Class 5A school now, Marist remains and continues to pose a major threat. The War Eagles are ranked No. 2 with an 11-5 record against a remarkably difficult schedule. Other teams to watch include No. 4 Northwest Whitfield and No. 6 Heritage-Catoosa, which both reached the semifinals last year.

*Worth noting: Region 1 champ Thomas County Central will receive a first-round bye. The Yellow Jackets’ region is paired in Round 1 with Region 3, which has only three girls programs. They will play Heritage-Catoosa or Mt. Zion-Jonesboro in the second round.

*First-round matchups:

(R1 #3) Cairo at (R3 #2) New Hampstead

(R7 #4) Pickens at (R5 #1) Luella

(R6 #3) Hapeville Charter at (R8 #2) Jefferson

(R4 #4) Baldwin at (R2 #1) Columbus

(R3 #3) Jenkins at (R1 #2) Bainbridge

(R5 #4) Hampton at (R7 #1) Northwest Whitfield

(R8 #3) Madison County at (R6 #2) Druid Hills

(R2 #4) Spencer at (R4 #1) Perry

(R2 #3) Troup at (R4 #2) Spalding

(R8 #4) East Hall at (R6 #1) Marist

(R7 #3) Southeast Whitfield at (R5 #2) Fayette County

(R1 #4) Westover at (R3 #1) Islands

(R4 #3) West Laurens at (R2 #2) LaGrange

(R6 #4) Arabia Mountain at (R8 #1) North Oconee

(R5 #3) Mount Zion-Jonesboro at (R7 #2) Heritage-Catoosa

(R1 #1) Thomas County Central bye

Class 2A

*No. 1 team: Lovett

*2021 champion: Lovett

*Overview: Top-ranked Lovett is the heavy favorite to win its third state championship in six seasons and its fifth title overall. The Lions are 15-3, with the losses coming against highly ranked teams from higher classifications – Harrison (Class 7A No. 6), Greater Atlanta Christian (3A No. 2) and Westminster (3A No. 1). Pace Academy, the only other team in the field that has won a state championship, is ranked No. 3. Lovett defeated Pace Academy 4-0 in a Region 6-2A game on March 29. In between them sits Bremen (14-2-1), which defeated Pace Academy in the 2021 semifinals before losing to Lovett 3-0 in the championship game.

*Worth noting: No public school has won a Class 2A championship. Besides Bremen, other public schools in the top 10 are No. 4 Jeff Davis, No. 5 Model, No. 6 Lamar County, No. 7 Fitzgerald, No. 8 Fannin County, No. 9 Bleckley County and No. 10 Callaway.

*First-round matchups:

(R1 #3) Cook at (R3 #2) Bleckley County

(R7 #4) Gordon Central at (R5 #1) Bremen

(R6 #3) Elite Scholars Academy at (R8 #2) Elbert County

(R4 #4) Johnson-Augusta at (R2 #1) Jeff Davis

(R3 #3) Jasper County at (R1 #2) Thomasville

(R5 #4) Haralson County at (R7 #1) Fannin County

(R8 #3) Rabun County at (R6 #2) Pace Academy

(R2 #4) Toombs County at (R4 #1) Oglethorpe County

(R2 #3) Bacon County at (R4 #2) Putnam County

(R8 #4) Banks County at (R6 #1) Lovett

(R7 #3) Dade County at (R5 #2) Callaway

(R1 #4) Worth County at (R3 #1) Lamar County

(R4 #3) Laney at (R2 #2) East Laurens

(R6 #4) Therrell at (R8 #1) Union County

(R5 #3) Temple at (R7 #2) Model

(R3 #4) Washington County at (R1 #1) Fitzgerald