Semifinals prove to be end of the road for Pope
by Michael Foster
MDJ Sports Correspondent
May 15, 2014 04:00 AM | 1649 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MARIETTA — When it rains, it pours.

The saying served as truth more than an expression for the Pope girls soccer team Wednesday night, as two shot attempts in the unrelenting rain slipped off the goalkeepers’ hands and into the net in a 3-0 loss to Starr’s Mill in the Class AAAAA state semifinals.

It brought an end to Pope’s banner season, which included the Region 7AAAAA championship and a 15-3-3 record.

“We fell two games short of our overall goal, but I’m so proud of this group,” coach Trey Daniel said.

Pope entered the game coming off a 9-1 quarterfinal victory over Richmond Hill, but Starr’s Mill (19-3) boasted an equally impressive stat line, having not allowed a goal in any of its state playoff matches.

Something had to give, and it might have been the weather.

Pope and Starr’s Mill were scoreless with 37 seconds remaining in the first half when Lady Greyhounds goalie Blair Shortland, who had four impressive saves earlier in the contest, mishandled a shot attempt that eventually rolled into the back of the net.

Shortland was pulled at halftime to make room for Natalia Icen, who allowed a goal of the exact same tune just 28 minutes later.

“(Shortland) probably felt like (the goal) was her fault, but it really wasn’t,” Daniel said. “We were unmarked on the back side of the play and let a shooter get free. I told her (at the half) that I was proud of her and wanted to console her as best I could.”

Despite two goals that might have been prevented in dry air, Daniel insisted the conditions played no factor.

“The conditions are what they are,” he said. “I tell my players all of the time that we don’t let the uncontrollable things control us, so it was just something we had to deal with. Those goals were very unfortunate, but it happens. I’m very proud of both of our keepers, who did a great job (Wednesday), as they had all season.”

Starr’s Mill scored its second goal with 34 minutes remaining in the contest, as Molly Moroney scored off a free kick from 12 yards out.

The three goals were the most allowed by Pope this season. Despite that, the Lady Greyhounds still outscored their opposition by a 52-12 margin with 14 shutouts.

For Pope seniors Rachel Aldridge, Ana Elias, Belle Geiger, Hailey Johnston, Alexa Moore and Randi Schroedel, it was a tough end to a successful season that will highlight their careers with the program.

According to Daniel, the future is also very bright.

“We were region champs. Our seniors go out champions,” he said. “But we’ve also got seven freshmen on this varsity squad, so Pope is going to be very good for a very long time.”

Starr’s Mill advanced to face neighboring McIntosh in Friday’s Class AAAAA championship at Kennesaw State’s Fifth Third Bank Stadium.
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