Cherokee County soccer season is officially down to three teams as the state playoffs begin this week.
Etowah was the only boys team to qualify, while Creekview and Cherokee each advanced on the girls side.
The Eagles (8-7-3) have won at least one playoff game in each of the last three seasons but will have a long trip to open their playoff schedule, as they travel to Colquitt County (15-2).
“You don’t like those long trips, but you have to deal with it,” Etowah coach Robert Holman said. “Every player we have was there when we beat McEachern last year. I think we were a little shell shocked in the first round last year, but I think we’ll be more prepared to handle that environment and that kind of team.”
Led by Alan Villalobos and Andreas Jorquera, Etowah has produced three or more goals eight times this season, and they will likely need a similar performances against a Packers team scoring 4.1 goals per game.
“We’re going to have to possess the ball ourselves,” Holman said. “That’s how we want to play anyway, but if We can keep possession and get some offense, that will help on both sides.”
On the girls side, Cherokee (10-7) will look to end its long playoff drought with a long run, starting with a visit to Camden County (11-2).
The Lady Warriors snapped a four-game losing streak with a win over Wheeler and a tie with Sprayberry to close the regular season.
“It was just really good to get things turned around,” Cherokee coach Chrissy Syrios said. “Those last two games, we saw a lot more energy and got our legs going.”
The Lady Warriors’ offense will be challenged to continue its pace of 3.5 goals per game this year against a Camden County defense that has only given up nine goals all season.
Abi Reale, June Campbell and Kaia King lead the attack that will look to score goals on a defense that has produced nine shutouts this season.
“It’s about being disciplined,” Syrios said. “We have to move off the ball. That can open things up, and we have to make sure we’re capitalizing when we get those chances.”
In Class AAAAAA, Creekview (10-4-1) is coming off two straight trips to the state quarterfinals, but for the first time during that run, it will have to open on the road at Dunwoody (12-4).
“We have a lot of girls who have been here,” Creekview coach Kerri Schmitt said. “That’s a huge strength. They don’t want their season to end. If they can show these younger girls what it takes to keep playing, that should help us out.”
Bri Alexander and Allie Cody have anchored a defense that has allowed just 1.4 goals per game this season, but the game could come down to the play of Maddi Rhodes and Channing Pantano on the offensive end.
The Lady Wildcats have won 10 straight games and allow less than a goal per contest, but if the Lady Grizzlies can stick to their game plan, Schmitt said she thinks they can break that trend.
“We have to look for those gaps,” she said. “If we can find them, we can take advantage of them. We need to be looking to get our shots. I think we’re pretty good at shooting the ball, especially from further out and looking to follow that. If we can just get some opportunities in there, that’s going to be our best option.”