They’re back. North Oconee girls soccer is back in the state championship. The Titans defeated Holy Innocents 2-0 on Thursday to punch their ticket to the finals for the second time in three years.
“It's awesome. I'm just really happy for them. I'm really proud of them. We get seven more days together so that's, you know, the best part,” said head coach Ben Grassmyer following North Oconee’s victory.
Sutton Haynes got the Titans on the board early, scoring in the 23rd minute off a throw-in by Grace Maddox. In the 73rd minute, Maddox herself found the net from a free kick at mid-field. Her goal slammed the door shut on Holy Innocents and secured North Oconee’s victory.
Goalkeeper Helen Galanti came up with big saves to record her team’s 18th shutout of the season. It was only her second game back on the field after injury but her first 80 minute return.
“She's just confident, she makes everyone else confident,” Grassmyer said. “That's a big part too. But we're lucky to have her.”
The defense as a whole has been the reason the Titans have gotten the team to this point, as the backline has conceded only two goals this season.
“It gives us just confidence. We know if we can get one, we are so good at just hanging on,” Grassmyer said. “We can hang on better than anybody else can and that's all we need to do.”
The Titans’ hunt for another state title is far from over. On May 4, they will battle Westminster for the GHSA Class AAAA crown.
Even in the biggest game of the season, the Titans believe they have one advantage over their opponent: the desire to win.
That’s how they beat the Golden Bears in the semifinals
“This was the game that we'd been eyeing for a while, and we knew it was going to be important,” said junior Ava Caldwell. “From the get go, I think we wanted it more and that showed because we were winning every 50/50 ball. We won because we wanted it more.”
Thursday’s final match will be a battle of the unbeaten.
North Oconee has amassed a near perfect record this season, drawing in two games and losing none.. While Westminster has lost a handful of games this year, it’s won its most important match each of the past few seasons to capture seven straight Class AAA titles.
In order to knock off the powerhouse Wildcats, Grassmyer said there’s one thing his team needs to do to win: “Fight like hell.”
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