MACON – The Academy for Classical Education (ACE) girls varsity soccer team defeated Lake Oconee Academy 1-0 on Monday, April 26 in the second round of the GHSA Class A Public state playoffs.
This marks an end to LOA’s 2021 season after it finished ranked No. 3 in Region 8-A Public. The Lady Titans reached the Sweet Sixteen due to the No. 2 seed, Manchester High, forfeiting the first-round matchup due to “unforeseen circumstances.” ACE will move on to face Portal High School in the Elite Eight next week.
Lady Titans’ first-year head coach Jacob Baxley was extremely proud of his team and how they performed this season.
“I’m very proud of the team this year,” Baxley told the Lake Oconee News. “The girls worked hard and it showed through how much they improved from beginning to end. We are disappointed because we didn’t win as many of those close games as we should have, and didn’t get as far as we wanted to get in the playoffs. But, we’ll be back next season.”
This was the first time that LOA has returned to the state playoffs since the 2019 season, which included a run to the Final Four before being defeated by ACE. The Lady Gryphons went on to win the state championship that year. Last season, the Lady Titans got off to a 5-2 start, but the season was abruptly ended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
LOA will graduate three seniors this year in Emma Parker, Lily Hartrich and Nayely Galan. Hartrich and Galan were on that 2019 team as sophomores when the Lady Titans made that deep playoff run. Parker transferred to LOA at the start of her junior year and joined the program last season. Even though those three will be surely missed, the Lady Titans have a ton of underclassmen, who all gained invaluable game experience this season.
Baxley said that this year’s squad took a step in the right direction as he continues to build the program towards the future.
“Building a great program doesn’t always happen in one year,” he said, “but, we have some great pieces in place to become a strong team. Hopefully next year we won’t have to navigate through so much uncertainty around us and we’ll be able to focus more on school and soccer.”
Baxley added that the future is very bright for this team.
“We were young this year, and will get even younger next year with a good upcoming freshman class,” he said. “We have built a strong girls soccer program from varsity to middle school and we’ll see some positive results of this for the next two to four years, at least.”