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Lee County girls soccer takes next step toward history tonight

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

LEESBURG -- Everyone knows that baseball is king in Lee County.

But for just one night, it's time for girls soccer to take center stage.

The Lady Trojans made history Wednesday evening when they became the first soccer team from Lee County High School -- boys or girls -- to reach the GHSA Class AAAA Elite 8, where they'll host Starr's Mill today at 6 p.m. with a trip to the Final Four at stake.

And while there was no pep rally Friday to get the girls hyped for the mammoth, and quite monumental, showdown, coach Dave Baltenberger said folks around town have shown their support in other ways.

"We're still soccer -- so there wasn't a huge deal made about it," the coach laughed Friday evening as he -- ironically -- took in the Lee County baseball team's first-round state playoff game. "But I will say that the past few days we've had a lot of people stop by the field, or drive by and honk their horns or wave, and just wish us good luck and congratulations.

"For us, this is a pretty big deal."

As it should be.

Lee County got to this point by upsetting one of four No. 1 seeds in the state tournament as it beat Evans on the road in Augusta on Wednesday, 2-1.

Leading scorer Rachel Hatch returned from being out sick for a week just in time for that game, netting one goal and assisting on another. But she played sparingly.

That won't be the case tonight.

"She's feeling much better and (today) she's gonna play a whole game," the coach said. "I mean, this is it. We have to go for it. This is (the biggest game) of the year -- and in our program's history. She wouldn't miss a minute of it. And if she gets tired, she'll let me know."

Hatch said Friday, quite simply, there's no chance of that.

"Oh, yeah -- I'm definitely feeling better. We're ready for this," said Hatch, who has scored 31 of her team's 102 goals this year. "It hasn't really hit us yet (how big this game is), I think. But it will when he take the field (tonight). We're all so excited."

Senior Kelly Polk, whose mother Carla is an assistant coach and younger sister Nicole is one of the team's star stoppers, couldn't agree more.

"We're not nervous. Excited is definitely a better word to describe (how we're feeling)," Kelly said. "We're just going with the flow right now. Either way, no matter (what happens tonight), we've already accomplished a lot."

If Lee County (17-2-1) wins, it will play the winner of McIntosh and Glynn Academy in the Final Four on Wednesday. Glynn is one of only two teams to beat Lee all season.

"They beat us 4-0 early in the year, so, yeah we'd like another shot," Baltenberger said. "But first thing first: One game at a time."