Sherwood Christian’s Katelyn Cuff scores the first goal of Tuesday’s GISA Class AA state semifinal game against First Presbyterian Christian. The Lady Eagles won, 2-0, to advance to Saturday’s state championship. (Staff Photo: John Millikan)
ALBANY — With the final seconds winding down, a large group of Sherwood Christian Academy students gathered outside the fence near midfield and began to chant, “State, state, state.”
Then the buzzer sounded, and the students rushed the field and celebrated with their girls soccer team.
The Sherwood Lady Eagles are heading to the GISA Class AA state championship game. And they did it in dramatic fashion, shutting out defending champion First Presbyterian Christian, 2-0, Tuesday night in the semifinals at Darton State College.
“This is fantastic,” sophomore midfielder Ashley Hughes said. “And thrilling. We’re excited to go to state. I can’t wait for the weekend.”
The Lady Eagles (20-2-1) will head to St. Simon’s Island for Saturday’s Class AA state championship game against Monsignor Donovan, which knocked off Frederica 2-1 in overtime over the weekend. Frederica will play host to the neutral site contest.
Sherwood has already made history as the team advanced to the semifinals for the first time in school history. The Lady Eagles are believed to be the first program to play for a state championship in any sport since the school began competing in the GISA.
With Sherwood set to leave the GISA for the newly formed Georgia Independent Christian Athletic Association this fall, the Lady Eagles would like nothing more than for their final sporting event to leave with a championship.
“There has been a lot of pressure to make it this far,” junior Jordyn Paramore said. “But everybody has been supporting us very well.”
Like it did in the quarterfinal win against Trinity Christian last week, Sherwood battled FPC to a scoreless tie at halftime. Then just minutes into the second half, Hannah King set up Katelyn Cuff with a perfectly executed scoring opportunity. And Cuff didn’t disappoint, drilling a shot that ricocheted off the First Presbyterian goalkeeper’s hands and into the net.
Cuff’s goal, at the 37:25 mark of the second half, came after the Lady Eagles managed just four shots on goal in the first half.
“When you’re not getting many scoring chances, you have to have it,” Sherwood coach Jason Schultz said of Cuff’s goal.
But when Cuff made it 1-0, it opened the door for the Lady Eagles to take quality attempts at the goal. Junior Kendalyn Stone just missed another goal at the 22:39 mark when her attempt when wide right.
At the 12:19 mark, King booted from near midfield an attempt that seemed to be on the mark. However, it sailed just barely over the net.
Then at the 6:26 mark, Bailey McDonald had a one-on-one attempt with the goalkeeper only to come up short.
But McDonald wasn’t finished. With 2:22 left, the Lady Eagles put the finishing touches on the victory when she set up sophomore Kylee Harrod with the final goal of the game.
After having many of their attempts thwarted, Schultz said Harrod’s goal finally gave the Lady Eagles enough cushion to send them into the championship game. He dropped his players back just to defend.
“We knew we had to keep the mindset that it was 0-0 even though we were ahead 1-0,” Paramore said. “They could have easily put one in the back of the net on us.”
The victory ignited a wild celebration on the field.
“I don’t know what to think right now … I don’t know what to do,” Hughes said. “I want a state ring. But we’ve got to play 80 minutes of the same game again. We can’t give up.”
A similar performance could have the students singing, “We are the champions” on the Saturday.