Hosting last year’s state runners-up, the First Presbyterian Christian Academy girls’ soccer team figured it had a tough task at hand.
But playing on their home field at St. James Friday afternoon, the girls looked poised. The Highlanders overpowered the Heritage School Hawks, 6-1, to clinch FPCA’s first state title-game appearance for the fourth-year program.
“There are just no words to describe this feeling,” Highlander coach Tom Sukaratana said. “This team is so young, but they showed character today.”
The ’Landers will play for their first state title next Saturday on St. Simons Island at Frederica Academy,
On Friday, the Highlanders struck early in the first half off a goal from co-captain and senior Brooke Standard.
‘Lander goalkeeper Megan Higgason saved two early shots on goal by the Hawks. Suddenly, the tables were turned when FPCA’s Aaliyah Wilson took a long kick, touched it twice and sent it past the Hawks’ goalkeeper for the second goal.
The Hawks answered with a goal off a lob kick over Higgason’s reach, but the FPCA girls shut down every other opportunity the visiting team had to score.
Lady ‘Lander co-captain Kelsey Higgason had a penalty kick blocked by the Hawks, but Elanna Peterson was there to finish the job and give the home team a 3-1 lead.
Kelsey Higgason drove the ball downfield again but was denied a goal. Staying focused, Higgason was given another opportunity and she drove the ball for 15 yards and punched it beyond the goalkeeper’s reach for the Lady Landers’ fourth goal in the first half.
A few minutes later, Higgason punched in another goal and FPCA had a 5-1 lead at the half.
During intermission, the coach talked to his team and asked them to stay focused. He asked the Lady Highlanders for just one favor.
“Don’t let them score,” he said. “And score one more goal for us.”
Twenty minutes into the second half, Myesha Robinson kicked the ball downfield and Peterson connected on her second goal to answer the coach’s wish and seal the 6-1 victory.
“They stayed on course, they didn’t have an attitude and they never gave up,” Sukaratana said. “They played together, and they supported each other.”
The girls are waiting to see whether they play Gatewood School or Terrell Academy in the championship game.
The score from that semifinal game was not available at press time. Either way, a trip to St. Simons Island for the finals almost is the same as having a home field advantage for the Lady ‘Landers’ fan base.
“We are still close to home, and we don’t have to go to Atlanta,” Sukaratana said.
The FPCA girls are 13-1 overall and 6-0 in Region 4-AA. The starting time for next Saturday’s game was not available at press time.