Lakeside junior Susanne Rogers thinks sleep will be an option tonight - only with the help of a few Tylenol. Teammate Jamie Lake has had "all knots" in her stomach for three days now.
The Panthers play host Marist at 6 tonight in the Georgia High School Association Class AAAA girls soccer state final. No Lakeside soccer team has ever played for a state title in the school's 16-year history. So the Panthers have all the reason in the world to be nervous.
Marist seems like the dream opponent. The War Eagles have halted Lakeside's season three years running in the state playoffs, and they come back to Augusta tonight.
"I have to commend Lakeside for reaching this point," Marist coach Sergio Stadler said. "They keep proving year after year they're a top program. There's rivalry and tradition developing between our teams."
Marist made a similar trip to Lakeside last season for the state semifinals on the way to another state championship.
"I'm sure they see us again and think 'Lakeside again. No big deal,' because of past history," Lakeside's Rebecca Bohler said.
The goal is to end the Marist nightmare that's silenced the past three Panthers' seasons in the playoffs by 3-0 scores.
"It's payback time," Rogers said. "I'm not cocky, just trying to sound confident. A win settles those scores. If they talk on the field I won't say a thing. My way of payback will be to score a goal."
Marist has 10 returning starters, played 13 playoff teams this year and is gunning for its seventh state title since state competition began in 1989.
"We hate it because they are a private school," Bohler said. "They have so much more resources to be good. We are a blue-collar team. We have to work so hard for our success."
Bohler measures her comments with equal portions of respect. She holds a firm belief that her team's work ethic won't be rivaled no matter the outcome.
"Most of their players go year-round," Bohler said. "We have maybe three or four players who play year-round. We come together only during high school season and work our butts off to get where we are at."
Lakeside has 11 seniors. The War Eagles return last year's squad except for one senior and a standout sweeper lost to a knee injury. The teams were tied 0-0 at the half last year.
"We have played them three years in a row now," Bohler said. "We have to be more aggressive and win the 50-50 balls. We could have easily gotten goals in the first half last year if we finished off our attacks. We'll have to do that on Saturday."
Over 20 members of the team attended Richmond Academy's boys soccer state title game at ARC Stadium on Friday night.
"I want to be there to see how hard they have to play and how they react if they win or if they lose," Lake said. "One way or another, I think we need to see that to help get us even more pumped up."
Reach Jeff Sentell at (706) 823-3425 or email@example.com.
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