The Eastside girls' soccer team began the 2012 season with three losses in its first four matches and five in its first seven, setting up a year that seemed to be anything but historic.
Coach Joel Singleton then made some strategic changes and senior Amber Lafond found her scoring touch. Beginning March 15, the Lady Eagles won six straight and eight of nine, outscoring opponents 47-11.
The streak helped propel Eastside to the Class AAA playoffs, where it defeated Westside High 3-0, earning its first ever second-round appearance.
Eastside would finish its season in the next round, ending with a 12-7-1 record but a successful one, nonetheless.
"It was a lot of fun," Singleton said. "Coming into this year, I really felt like, with the senior class that we had, that we had a great chance to definitely get back to the playoffs and even win a game."
That success earned the Lady Eagles several accolades, including Coach of the Year and Player of the Year on The Covington News All-County Team.
Singleton was given the coaching nod, in part for his changes early in the season to help Eastside reach new heights. One of those changes was moving Clayton State signee Tara Harrison from the midfield to defense.
"We started out 2-5 I made a switch on the field putting Tara Harrison on defense and Savannah Hill on offense," Singleton said. "We got more production the rest of the year from both of them, and it made a huge difference."
The Lady Eagles won seven straight Region 4-AAA games, en route to a 7-1 record. Eastside gave up just six goals in region play, earning the second seed.
"Our defensive back line was really inconsistent, we graduated three defensive starters from last year," Singleton said. "The biggest thing I noticed was speed, we were getting beat on the corners."
Singleton moved Harrison, the fastest person on the team to the back, allowing the whole defensive back line to get more comfortable.
"I needed some changes to get consistency, and that allowed Cary (Delong) to do what she does best and cover the middle."
It was Singleton's third season with the Lady Eagles, leading them to a 12-2-2 record and a first round playoff appearance in 2011 and an 11-5 mark and another first-round playoff run in 2010.
With Harrison in the back third, Eastside had six shutouts.
While Harrison fortified the defense, Lafond highlighted the offense, and was selected as the All-County team Player of the Year.
"She had great four years at Eastside," Singleton said. "She finished with 97 goals for her career and 58 assists. To my knowledge that's the second most goals in school history and the most assists."
Lafond led the Lady Eagles with 30 goals and 18 assists, starting all 20 games in her senior season. Lafond also had five game-winning goals and had five games with three or more goals.
"The biggest thing she brought was consistency," Singleton said. "Even if we had a bad game she made us better. Even when she didn't score she had assists and defended the other team's best players.
In the season opener the Lady Eagles central midfielder had three goals during a 7-0 win over Newton on Feb. 14, and added five more in a 9-0 win over Drew on March 6.
"Usually everything flows through the middle in high school, and she was somebody the other team always had to pay attention to," Singleton said. "When they took her out of the game it always hurt. She needed to touch the ball for good things to happen for us."
Lafond served as Eastside's captain in her junior and senior seasons, providing leadership to her teammates.
Lafond had several Division II and III college offers, but chose to attend Georgia for academics after finishing in the top 24 in Eastside's senior class with a 3.95 GPA.
Lafond anchors an All-County team that features several other Eastside players. Harrison, who moved to defense early in the season, was selected as a one of three defenders. Harrison, who started all 20 games, finished with five goals and 14 assists. Joining Harrison on the All-County defensive unit is Lady Eagles' teammate Kari Dylong and Newton's Chantel Stennett.
Stennett, an upcoming senior, has started all three years for the Lady Rams.
Behind the defense is All-County goalkeeper Carly Farrow, of Eastside. The junior keeper showed vast improvement from her sophomore season, starting all 20 games.
Farrow saved 153 shots and had 10 shutouts. She allowed just 2.35 goals per game, giving up 42 total.
"She had a great year basically with the exception of the Heritage and Columbus games," Singleton said. "Both of those games, it wasn't an issue of her giving up goals, just the fact we played better teams. Other than that she did so much for us this year."
Eastside continued to earn spots on the All-County team with Savannah Hill and Emily House joining Lafond I the midfield.
Alcovy's Morgan Edelman led the lady Tigers with 12 goals, scoring 35 percent of Alcovy's goals this season, being voted the team's MVP. Edelman also had nine assists, second on the team, and scored on 39 percent of her shots.
Joining Edelman was Alcovy's Sage Fuller, who was selected as an All-County forward.
Fuller was second on the Lady Tigers with nine goals, and voted the team's best offensive players. She also had four assists for the 9-5-1 Lady Tigers.
Newton's Lacy Brackett was also selected as a forward after leading the Lady Rams with 12 goals.
"Lacy was our main goal scorer on the team and our most offensive player," Newton coach Nilesh Patel said.
Sarah Gaddis, Eastside's second-leading goal scorer with 27, rounded out the All-County team.