Westminster and Augusta Prep each have a firm grip on the GISA soccer ranks over an extended period of time, and both seek to further tighten it this weekend.
The two perennial state contenders will travel to Mercer University in Macon, Ga., to play in the GISA soccer Final Four. Westminster’s boys play Holy Spirit Prep in the semifinals today at 7 p.m., and Augusta Prep’s girls play Deerfield-Windsor at 5.
Boys state championship will be Saturday at 6:30 p.m. at Mercer, while the girls title game is at 4.
Both programs have won three state titles in a row between 2014-16. Westminster has built its program into a dynasty with nine championships since 2000, including four this decade.
Behind the success are consistent coaching staffs, led by Mike Freace at Westminster and Tom Norton at Augusta Prep.
Freace is in his 17th year and has established a culture that includes on-field success but extends beyond wins and losses.
“We talk about, it’s about the 26, not the one, 26 being the 22 players and four coaches,” Freace said. “Make decisions for the 26, not the one. When you celebrate, celebrate for the 26, not the one. Also, make sure you represent God, school and family well.”
Westminster is 16-1 after beating Trinity Christian-Sharpsburg 4-0 in the quarterfinals May 11. They’ve yet to allow a goal in two playoff games and have allowed just one shot on goal over that stretch, including outshooting Trinity 25-1.
The Wildcats pride themselves on a team mentality and working well together. There’s an abundance of talent across the roster, starting with Jelani Watson-Gayle and Jannie Nel racking up high goal totals, and goalkeepers Brandon Smith and Michael Hitchcock providing steady play. But they choose to focus on the team aspect as they seek a fourth consecutive title.
“We just work really well together,” Freace said. “We have good players, obviously, but I think every guys is focused on the whole versus the individual. It’s a very humble group. Our leadership has been great from our upperclassmen.”
Norton has established a similar mindset at Augusta Prep, where the girls rolled through the first round and beat a solid Frederica team 2-1 in the quarterfinals. The next test is a fellow No. 1 seed in Deerfield-Windsor, which has defeated its first two opponents by a combined 15-0.
Reach David Lee at (706) 823-3216 or firstname.lastname@example.org.