ST. SIMONS ISLAND -- It may be a new team and a new year, but the same old roadblock is standing in Terrell Academy's way.
That would be Frederica Academy -- the queens of girls soccer in the state of Georgia.
The Lady Eagles (15-1) may have lost to Frederica in the state championship game a year ago -- nearly getting run off the field in an 11-1 rout -- but going into today's rematch, which will take place this go round in the Final Four, TAE coach Veann Farr thinks her girls may have a bit of an advantage this time around.
"We're more prepared because now we've actually seen them play, rather than just heard how good they were," Farr said Tuesday night as she rode with the team to St. Simons Island, which is Frederica's home turf and the site of today's 3 p.m. showdown for the right to advance to Saturday's title game to face the winner of Heritage and Piedmont. "We learned a lot about ourselves and them from that loss, and we've changed some things, like our defense. I'm real proud of how my girls have played this year and I believe in them. They've grown, they're more mature and hopefully -- this time around -- it will be our day."
But if it's not, Terrell Academy could be in for another long one.
Frederica might be the most talented girls soccer team in the state -- GISA or GHSA, and regardless of classification.
Its dynasty includes winning four of the last six state crowns in Class AA, and the two times it lost were in the finals. The Frederica girls are led by the best player in Georgia -- literally the best. Morgan Brian is two-time Gatorade Georgia Girls Soccer Player of the Year -- for all classes, public or private -- and she's also the captain of the U.S. Soccer Federation under-17 women's national team.
She scored six of Frederica's 11 goals last year in the finals, and she's back again this year, along with Jessica Haley, both of whom are U.S. Junior Olympians.
But Terrell Academy has a few secret weapons of its own, one of which is senior goalie Millie Foster, who was on the wrong end of the net during last year's drubbing. But she has posted shutouts in more than half of the Lady Eagles' 15 wins this year. In fact, Terrell hasn't lost to a single team in Georgia this season, going 12-0 in regular-season play and only falling to Ben Lippin High School out of South Carolina during Sherwood Christian's tournament
"We're expecting them to be as good or better. But we're not going in feeling like we're already defeated -- we definitely think we have a chance. Plus, we forgot about that game (last year) the very next day, and put it out of our minds," said Foster, who is one of five seniors on the team. "Since then, we've used (the defeat instead) as motivation. This week's practice was more about mental preparation (to face Frederica again) than anything else. We have a different mentality this time around."
Admittedly, Terrell was a little shell-shocked when Brian came out in last year's title game and recorded a hat trick before the first 20 minutes of the first half were even over. Down 3-0 before anyone could blink, the Lady Eagles abandoned their gameplan and watched helplessly as the title began to slip away before their eyes.
"What we learned from that game is that we can't give up and we have to keep playing our game, our own positions and not get out of the game we've played that got us here," said Locke, also a senior. "We need to not worry about what they're doing and just do what we do."
Doing what they do is getting the ball to leading scorer Maura Milliron, who leads the team with 23 goals, or Locke, who is second on the team or Alex Barfield, the third-leading scorer. And if that doesn't work, the Lady Eagles always have the revamped, improved defense to fall back on, led in goal by Foster, who has recorded a staggering 130 saves this season en route to leading the Lady Eagles to one of the best records in GISA.
"She's an amazing goalie," Farr said of Foster. "And more importantly, she's part of a winning class at Terrell Academy. These girls know how to win."
She ain't lying.
Foster, Locke, Milliron, Barfield and Carley Law were all stars on this past season's girls basketball team that won it all for the third year in a row.
Foster, for one, thinks having that winner's mentality -- in more sports than just soccer -- is a big edge for the Lady Eagles today.
"I definitely think that helps us because we know we've been in big-time, pressure situations before -- not just in soccer -- and we know how to handle the pressure," said Foster, who then paused before adding: "And not just handling the pressure, but handling it successfully."
But no one on the TAE bus Tuesday night was kidding themselves about the daunting task that lay in front of them today.
They know they're the underdogs.
They know winning this year will likely be tougher than last.
And they know what a shock it would be to all of Georgia if they somehow pulled this one off.
"It would shock the entire state because I'll hand it them -- they're definitely a great soccer team," Locke said. "But I think we've got an upset in us. I hope we do."