The Lady Hoyas came out with a 1-0 victory over Mill Creek following a few days of tumultuous activity surrounding the initial 5:30 p.m. start time for the game at Cobleigh Stadium and Mill Creek’s senior prom scheduled that evening.
Meanwhile, the Lady Buccaneers exploded for four second half goals en route to a 4-0 victory over Woodward Academy at Buccaneer Stadium.
The victories advanced both teams to Wednesday’s semifinals where Region 4AAAAA champion Harrison will host Region 6AAAAA No. 3 Northview, while Region 7AAA champion Allatoona will travel to Region 8AAA No. 1 Gainesville.
Although the defending Class AAAAA state champion Lady Hoyas (14-4-1) are a much different team than they were a year ago, their expectations remain the same. Despite several new faces, new styles and new schemes, at its core is a squad that plays well together and understands their roles.
“We’re very excited to be back in the semifinals again,” Harrison coach Steve Riccard said, “And to be here with a whole new team is even more exciting. Last year’s team gave up, I think, five goals and went unbeaten on the season to win.
“This year, we’ve had losses, we’ve had injuries, we’ve had girls in and out of the lineup and we’ve had different rotations. There are a lot of new players and new faces, and we only have three returning starters. There’s been a lot to overcome, but towards the end of the season we’ve gotten people back and healthy, and we feel like we’re in a rhythm now.
“We have some good rotations coming in and it’s been good to see the players adapt and come through the adversity they’ve been through this season to get to this point.”
Standing in the way of the Lady Hoyas third state finals appearance in four years is a Lady Titans (12-6-1) team that has outscored its three playoff opponents 5-0 after allowing at least one goal in 11 of its 16 regular season contests.
“I’m a New York Giants fan,” Riccard said. “The last two times (the Giants) won the Super Bowl was because they were the team that got hot at the right time of the season. I don’t know a lot about (Northview), but the playoffs is about getting it done now, and Northview is the hot team right now, so we’ll have to be ready.”
Much like Harrison, Allatoona has gone through some changes as well, although they’re more subtle. The Lady Buccaneers’ appearance in the 2011 state semifinals was their first, and they were facing a veteran team — St. Pius X — that was gunning for its third straight finals appearance and third consecutive state title.
Allatoona (18-2-1) was like a fish out of water in the matchup and lost 10-0 to the Lady Lions.
“Last year’s final four team achieved far beyond the goals they set for the season,” Allatoona coach Bill Perry said. “Then, we ran into a St. Pius buzz saw. We didn’t know what to expect and we got run over because none of those kids knew anything of what to expect.
“This year, it’s different. We know now. You have to be mentally tough and your bench has to be ready at a moments notice. We have nine seniors on the team, and they’re helping the younger kids understand how to do things. There’s a different attitude that the kids believe in themselves more and believe they deserve to be here. They’re playing well together, and they have the experience of being there before.”
Allatoona’s game at Gainesville (16-3-2) will be its first road contest in the playoffs. A win over the Lady Red Elephants would allow the Lady Buccaneers to host the state final on Saturday.
“The road game is an advantage for Gainesville,” Perry said. “Our girls are going to have to remain focused and take their road experiences from the season to be able to prepare. We know what we have to do.”