There were smiles and laughter and yelps of joy - not the way you would expect the Aquinas girls soccer team to act after it suffered a heartbreaking 4-3 shootout loss. Especially to the Lady Irish's fiercest rival, Athens Academy.
But there was coach Tommy Garcia's squad Tuesday night, talking and giggling with each other. Not a wet eye in the bunch.
A victory would have been better, but senior Katelin Farrell said the Lady Irish's excitement was simple: they are oh-so-close to finally beating the fourth-ranked Lady Spartans.
It hasn't happened in 18 meetings and it didn't happen Tuesday at Aquinas, but Farrell's confident the Lady Irish will prevail when the teams meet again.
"For the past three years, they've killed us," said Farrell, whose team has finished second to Athens Academy in Region 7-A for five straight seasons. "We proved ourselves (Tuesday). We wanted it so bad that we played from the heart."
Unfortunately for Aquinas (11-3, 2-1 Region 7-A), which could see Athens Academy again later this month in the region finals, it wasn't enough to beat the Lady Spartans (8-4, 4-0) for the first time in school history.
The Lady Irish, however, proved they can overcome intimidation to play with Athens Academy.
"(Athens Academy) felt they'd come in here, and it'd be routine," Garcia said. "We showed we can play with them."
In the process, the Lady Irish almost pulled off an upset.
Knotted at 1-1 after play a regulation game and two 10-minute overtime periods, Aquinas' Mary Kate Claiborne's shot found the right-bottom corner of the net to give the Lady Irish an early advantage in the penalty-kick shootout.
But Athens Academy goalkeeper Maggie Robinson stuffed the next three Aquinas attempts, and Lady Spartans Alexis Yoculan and Elizabeth Howard beat Aquinas goal keeper Anna Quinones to retake the lead.
Aquinas' Paulette Acevedo scored to tie the game at 3-3 before Elizabeth Chastain found the right-bottom corner of the goal to give Athens Academy the win.
That, according to Farrell, won't happen again.
"I think we'll get them next time we play," she said. "We want it more than they do."
Said Garcia: "We gave them a match. We'll retool and look forward to seeing them again. I think next time it's our turn."
In the boys game, Athens Academy got four goals from David Allen and another from Jeff Petrovs to get by the Fighting Irish 5-1.
Although he didn't register any saves, Spartans goalkeeper Matthew Brown gave a solid performance against an Aquinas squad that had scored 21 goals in its past two games.
Aquinas falls to 6-8, 3-1 Region 7-A. Athens Academy is 7-5, 4-0 in the region.
Reach Josh Katzowitz at (706) 823-3216 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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