If you missed the soccer season's finale Tuesday at Sharp Stadium between the No. 9 Eastside Lady Eagles and the fifth-ranked Blessed Trinity Lady Titans, take a peak at our photo gallery from the night's action, as photographer Sydney Chacon chronicled the evening through her camera's lens.
COVINGTON, Ga. — After No. 9 Eastside’s 5-1 loss to fifth-ranked Blessed Trinity in Tuesday Night’s Class AAAA Elite Eight round at Homer Sharp Stadium, Lady Eagles coach Joel Singleton walked out near the middle of the field, turned to the crowd and tipped his cap.
The Eastside faithful responded with a round of raucous cheers. It was Singleton’s way of letting fans know how much he appreciated the community’s support — not just in that game, but all season long.
“It’s the community here that makes this special,” Singleton said. “They really came out this season. You know, soccer in this area is building. Conyers has had it for a while and now it’s starting to move into the Covington area. It’s been building.”
That optimism is the mood Singleton chose to accentuate in a game where the Lady Eagles may have been a bit outmatched physically, but never out-classed.
“I’m super proud,” Singleton said. “I mean, when you play a team like this, being where they are and being where we are, it’s already stacked against you. It’d be easy to lay down.”
It took Blessed Trinity only 38 seconds to net the game’s first goal against Eastside, but the defense would quickly respond.
Eastside sophomore goalkeeper Anna Shelton made three saves in the next eight minutes. At the 29:20 mark Lady Eagles’ Katie Oakley and Malaya Yamasaki combined to make a huge defensive play to stop a Lady Titan scoring opportunity at point blank range.
Shelton made three more saves over the next seven minutes during the first half before Blessed Trinity stretched its lead to 2-0 with 19:45 remaining in the first half.
With 14:26 on the clock a Lady Titan shot hit the cross bar and rebounded back on to the pitch where Shelton made another save on the followup shot. Eastside couldn’t keep the Lady Titans from going up 3-0 with 13:57 to play in the half.
Shelton continued doing all she could to keep Eastside in it as she made two more saves in rapid succession before senior McKenna Walker made a big defensive play when she ran down a Lady Titan and blocked a shot.
“Anna’s such a trooper,” Singleton said. “She’s hard-nosed. She’s tough. She doesn’t back down from anything. She pushes her teammates, loves her teammates. She’s always the one saying, ‘let’s go, let’s go.’ She doesn’t ever want to be the reason that we lose.”
The Lady Eagles got their first true shot on goal with 5:44 left to play and another with 3:05 left off an Eastside free kick. Shelton finished the 1st half with a total of 12 quality saves. Eastside trailed 3-0 at the break.
Eastside’s play in the second half was much improved. The Lady Eagles forced a save by Blessed Trinity at the 37:11 mark. But it was Blessed Trinity who scored first when they netted a goal with 30:56 on the clock.
Eastside made four saves in the next four-plus minutes before creating a beautiful goal of their own.
Shelton sent a long goal kick to midfield where Aralyn Everett settled the ball before sending a long, flighted ball that Mya Cummings ran down and crossed from just outside the right side of the 18-yard box across the goal mouth to the far side of the Lady Titans’ goal where Oakley fired it in with 25:15 left to play.
The goal was the freshman’s 21st of the season. Shelton made a save one minute later to keep the deficit at 4-1. Blessed Trinity scored the final goal of the night with 7:51 left to play. Shelton made a total of 12 additional saves in the second stanza for a total of 24 in the match.
Singleton said he was glad to see the fight increase in the second half.
“Their coach came to me afterward and said, ‘Ya’ll took it to us in the second half,’” Singleton said. “We just challenged them at halftime. They challenged each other. It was Aralyn telling everybody we were only down three goals and we can score in bunches. Mya Cummings talking about communication. The big thing is, we know what to do. We’d been doing it all season. We just needed to get out there and trust each other and do it.”
Eastside never quit and played hard throughout the match. The 5-1 loss ended the most successful season an Eastside boys or girls soccer team has ever put together.
Singleton was reflective after the match, especially about the careers his three seniors had.
"Proud of the girls,” he said. “What a season. We just didn't have the matchup going our way today. Blessed Trinity is a great team. Hats off to them. These seniors (Malaya Yamasaki, Mckenna Walker and Jacey Stringfield) have been wonderful to coach. We're going to truly miss them. I look forward to our program continuing to grow through this experience. It's been a fun year. I am blessed."
Blessed Trinity will meet top-ranked St. Pius X, 10-0 winners over Northside Columbus, next Tuesday in the Class AAAA Final Four.
*Mike Harrison contributed to this report.