Photo by Doug Gorman
Strong Rock goalkeeper Ansley Hughes gets ready to make a save during a practice session in Monday.
By Doug Gorman
The Strong Rock Christian girls soccer team is 1-for-1.
One year in the Georgia High School Association, one trip to the Class A state playoffs.
The Lady Patriots earned their spot in the postseason after putting together a 9-4 record.
For Strong Rock, its playoff journey starts today as it travels to Roswell for a game against Fellowship Christian in a first-round match at 5 p.m.
The Patriots face perhaps their biggest challenge of the year.
Fellowship Christian is undefeated and ranked No. 1 in the most recent eurosport.com Class A poll.
This is the first season Class A teams have competed in their own state tournament. In past season, the Class A/AA event was combined.
The Lady Paladins enter the game with a 16-0-1 record. Their only tie was against Sequoyah High in the season opener. They have allowed just five goals in 17 games.
Strong Rock coach Mike Bailey has its work cut out for them, but he is confident his team will make a solid effort at pulling the upset.
"That's what you play for, trying to get into the postseason," Bailey said. "Fellowship is an incredible team, but we have worked hard and we are just going to go up there and lay it all on the line. We will see what the results are in the end."
Strong Rock played in the Georgia Independent School Association for two seasons before the private Christian School in Locust Grove made the jump to the GHSA in all sports this season .
Bailey says there is definitely a difference in the level of play between GISA and GHSA.
"The teams in GHSA are better for the most part," he said. "At this level, you face good teams every time you play."
If Strong Rock hopes to pull of the upset, it will have to find away to slow down the state's top-ranked team.
"There are really fast," Bailey said. "They have some really skilled players. "They have one player who they say 'stop her first.' "We have a few ideals on how to slow her down."
Although Strong Rock is only in its first year of GHSA action, it was a GISA soccer power, and that success has helped generated interest at the school, bringing several new players into the program.
"Our team chemistry is very good," he said.
Four-sport athlete Ansley Hughes, who competes softball, basketball, soccer and track, would agree. Hughes brings senior leadership to the squad and would love to close her high school soccer career with a couple of wins.
"We are a really close group," she said. "We will fight for each other. We have each other's back. It's been a lot of fun being part of this team."
Junior stopper Jordan Joseph says it's been challenging moving into the GHSA, but the team is excited about the playoffs.
"It's different than last year, because we are playing bigger schools," she said. It's pretty cool to see how far we have gone in the season. Since we made the playoffs last year, we were hoping to mae it back again this year, but we really weren't sure what to expect since we were making the move to GHSA."
Sophomore forward Cindy Thompson is confident the Lady Paladians can pull of the upset.
"We just have to go out there and give it 110 percent," she said. "Then anything can happen."