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PREP SOCCER: Lady Redskins defeat ACA; will play for state title
Final Four Victory
The entire Lady Redskins squad embraces head coach Heather Richardson in celebration of their Final Four victory over Atlanta Classical Academy at Silverbacks Stadium in Atlanta on Thursday, April 28. - photo by Phillip B. Hubbard

ATLANTA — In a chippy contest on Thursday, the Social Circle Lady Redskins edged out a 3-1 win against Atlanta Classical Academy (ACA) in the Final Four of the Class A-Public playoffs. 

Head coach Heather Richardson expressed joy in her team’s advancement to the state title game. 

“I am so excited,” Richardson said. “This is the best feeling ever because we have worked so hard. And that game was a battle from beginning to end, so I’m super excited.” 

Though Social Circle came out on top, it was a rough start for the Lady Redskins. 

Both teams came out of the gate aggressive, fighting for every possession and shot they could put up. The referees allowed a lot of contact among players, too, not calling many penalties. 

As a result, neither team could find the back of the net almost halfway through the first 40-minute period. Then, with 21:51 remaining in the opening half, ACA broke through, giving itself a 1-0 lead. 

And, while that may seem like a bad thing, the Lady Redskins have been in that position before. 

During the regular season, Social Circle fell behind 1-0 early against Commerce on March 10 and Towns County on April 1. In both instances, the Lady Redskins bounced back to win those matches. 

Thursday was no different. As a matter of fact, striker Peyton Brooks said falling down 1-0 was what rejuvenated the team from that point forward. 

“[Going down 1-0] made us want to work harder, be more aggressive and take the lead back,” Brooks said. 

Less than five minutes later, the Lady Redskins knotted the score up at one goal apiece. 

Brooks pushed the ball up the field and put up a shot that was blocked by ACA’s goalkeeper. Brooks’ shot ricocheted off the goalkeeper’s hands and Alana Ferguson collected the rebound and made the shot into a wide-open goal. 

With 12:15 remaining in the first half, Brooks scored a goal of her own, giving Social Circle its first lead of the night — a lead that it would never relinquish. 

More chippy moments ensued in the final minutes of the first half, but Social Circle’s 2-1 remained intact when halftime arrived. 

Early in the second half, though, Social Circle added to its lead. 

After earning a corner kick, Kaylee Connell crossed the ball into the Lady Redskins’ offense. The pass went off a couple of Social Circle players before Olivia Cross kicked the ball through a few ACA defenders and into the net. 

That gave Social Circle its definitive 3-1 lead and it never looked back from there. 

Countless times in the second half, though,  the Lady Redskins’ defense was tested, but it remained tough and never allowed another goal. Rory Stowe, Faith Young and Morgan Chambers seemed to always be in the right place to clear the ball and stop any scoring threat. Goalkeeper Addie Stracner recorded a few key saves in the victory, too. 

As the final seconds ticked off the clock, Social Circle players, fans and coaches began to celebrate as they knew the Lady Redskins were officially heading to the state title game next week. 

Tess Preston, one of 10 seniors on this year’s squad, could hardly explain what the moment meant to her as she came running off the field in celebration. 

“I didn’t even have words to describe it,” Preston said of the celebratory moment. “I am just so excited and it was the best feeling ever.” 

Now, the Lady Redskins are off to compete in the state championship game. They’ll face a familiar foe with Commerce, of Region 8A-Public, which has advanced to the state title game, too. 

Commerce gave Social Circle its lone loss of 2022 on Feb. 7 with Social Circle avenging that loss at home on March 10. 

But, Richardson stressed how those previous contests won’t factor into what happens next week. 

“Even though we’ve played them before, it’s going to be a brand new game,” Richardson said. “It’s a state championship game. Anything I think of their team, they’re even better than they are. Everybody’s going to be on their best and working as hard as they can. So, we have to be ready for a game like the one we just played.”