On April 25, the Highlanders soccer teams played their last home games of the regular season, hosting Bulloch Academy on Senior Night. The Lady ’Landers crushed Bulloch 12-1 and the Highlanders lost 7-1.
The Lady ’Landers quickly took control of the match and kept the pressure on Bulloch’s goal. Bulloch’s keeper could do little against the onslaught of shots.
The first goal was scored when senior Cecilia Graham was fouled and took a free kick from 30 yards out. Graham had a standout final home game, scoring four times.
She has committed to play at Georgia Military College in the fall.
Senior, Mary Kathryn Whitney, also a GMC commit, scored twice. Senior, Auset Gibbs, a Southwest Mississippi commit, scored two goals. Eighth-grader Sasha Hatfield scored her first varsity goal, bringing cheers from the crowd and her teammates. Also contributing goals were Mercedes Buckley 2 and Cassandra Ruff 1.
Credited with assists were Gibbs, Graham, Ruff and Molly Strickland.
Currently 19-0 overall and 7-0 in the region, the Lady Highlanders are on an unprecedented streak for FPCA. With one game left before the playoffs, the Highlander seniors are striving to finish their FPCA careers with the first perfect season in program history.
For the Highlanders, senior Ausar Gibbs scored the one goal. Senior goalkeeper Matthew Smith was credited with numerous saves.
Between the games, the seniors were recognized for their contributions. Lady ’Landers honored were Gibbs, Graham, Whitney, Gizangely Marrero, and Miranda Wells. Highlanders honored were Gibbs, Smith, Jamison Golson, Xavier McCartney, George Mitchell, Brandon Attical, Isaiah Waller and manager Austin Hendrix.
Coach Tom Sukaratana talked about the experience of the seniors on the girls team.
"My captains (Graham, Whitney, Gibbs) have played varsity since the eighth grade. In their eighth-grade year, we won our last state championship."
Sukaratana said they have led the team well.
"Seniors Gizangely Marrero and Miranda Wells transferred into FPCA this year and were instantly part of our group as if they had been with us for years," he said. "The reason this team has been so successful is teamwork. Following the example of the captains, our team has learned to work together and build each other up.
Facing the graduation of five seniors, Sukaratana remains optimistic about next season.
"I have five juniors coming up that will help us adjust to the losses. Madison, Mackenzie and Mercedes Buckley will be seniors, along with Jelissa Estrada and Cassandra Ruff. With those five taking the lead, we will be a threat."
Speaking of his senior boys, Sukaratana said he was honored to finish out the high-school careers of Gibbs and Smith. The coach Sukaratana commended his two most experienced varsity players on their dedication.
"I try to teach the athletes not just soccer but the value of life," Sukaratana said. "Our graduating seniors have come a long way in the last four years, both athletically and spiritually. I am proud of them, no matter the season outcome."
The Highlanders played their final game of the season at Frederica Academy Monday. Results from it were not available for this story.