The GMC Prep girls soccer team earned its spot in the GHSA Class A-Public state semifinals Wednesday by defeating the visiting Lady Bulldogs of Trion High School.
The two quarterfinal contenders were deadlocked 1-1 after 80 minutes of regulation, but the home Lady Dogs scored less than a minute into overtime and held off the opposition to punch their ticket to the Final Four, winning 2-1.
Trion notched the game’s first goal with just under 18 minutes to play in the first half, and the home team trailed for nearly 45 minutes of game time before matching the opponent. GMC sophomore Logan Mitchem scored with 14 minutes left in regulation and she found junior teammate Emily Arp for what was the game-winning goal just 45 seconds into the overtime period.
“We really persevered,” GMC Prep girls head coach Tommy Howell said after the win. “I don’t think we played as well as we could have, but we found a way to win. This is an awesome feeling. Like I've said before though, I’m just so happy for the girls.”
Like the last couple of victories for the program, Wednesday’s win marks a new milestone for GMC Prep girls soccer. This season the Lady Dogs have won their first area championship, got their first playoff victory, and have now clinched their first semifinal berth.
Senior Lyssa Blair who heads up the team’s defensive efforts said she has believed for quite some time that the team could make it to this point.
“Maybe not after our first game, but after our second game I knew that we could at least make it to here,” Blair said. “We’re a family and we really have confidence in each other. We trust one another and we all work really well together.”
Blair and that Lady Dog defense stood strong as a brick wall for the first 20 minutes of play. Any Trion try to get the ball onto its offensive end in the early going was immediately sent back to GMC Prep forwards and midfielders. The visiting Lady Bulldogs would find a chink in that sturdy armor and strike first though, scoring with 17:47 left before halftime. The home team would have its opportunities, but could not find the net before the break.
Coach Howell and his staff’s message to the girls during halftime was simple.
“I told them to believe in themselves,” he said. “We thought we outplayed them in the first half, but the ball just didn’t go in the goal. We just told them to believe, believe, believe.”
Most of the second half’s scoring opportunities belonged to the home side, but GMC simply could not cash in. Public address announcer Scott Seagraves had notified fans before the game that anytime the home team scored a cannon would be fired. It was beginning to look like the cannon’s services would not be needed in the girls matchup, but that all changed with just under 15 minutes to play.
Mitchem threw the ball into play from deep in Trion’s end and a GMC teammate immediately returned it. The sophomore saw her opportunity and deftly maneuvered through the visitors’ defense before sending the ball right over the goalie’s head for the score.
Following a quick celebration, regulation played itself out with neither team finding goal again, and so to overtime the game went. A Trion foul early in the extra period gave Mitchem another opportunity to strike via direct kick. She launched the ball toward the goal and her junior teammate Arp sent it in to put the Lady Dogs on top for good. Trion tried to match, but GMC stayed on the attack for most of overtime, keeping the ball in the visitors’ end.
Next up for the GMC Prep Lady Dogs is Atlanta Classical Academy who defeated Atkinson County 2-1 in their quarterfinal to advance. Date and time for the GMC-Atlanta Classical Academy semifinal matchup are to be determined. On the other side of the bracket, ACE Charter and Lake Oconee Academy, both teams GMC has faced, will do battle for the right to advance to the state championship.