Westminster girls soccer coach Mike Freace saw this year as a journey.
The journey of getting over the hump in the Georgia Independent Schools Association semifinals, a round in which his Wildcats had been knocked out of the state playoffs in each of the past four seasons.
"We were the dark horse this year," Freace said. "We weren't even really favored to get to the final. Everyone thought it was going to be a (First Presbyterian) and Stratford final. We busted up the championship everyone was thinking about."
The Augusta Chronicle's 2006 Girls Soccer Coach of the Year made a key move in the semifinal that eliminated that hurdle.
"We noticed some things that we thought would give them problems," Freace said. "We tweaked areas we wanted to attack a bit more with our forwards. We put our best forward who had played center forward all year and put her at right forward to isolate her on one of their weaker players."
Margaret Houston scored three goals in the 4-2 win against second-ranked First Presbyterian. That created another journey.
"The bus ride home was crazy," Freace said.
Westminster's faith-based curriculum meant the journey was PG-rated, but still plenty of fun.
"The girls were in rare form after that game," Freace said. "They'd do anything to get a reaction from the other girls or their coaching staff."
It's those moments that produce the best moments of coaching.
"Obviously, you do all the work for the kids," Freace said. "That's kind of the end result of all the hard work. The research. The scouting. The end result in creating an experience like that which has an impact on their life. An experience like that on the bus is the pinnacle of what you work for."
The season was filled with breath- taking moments.
The team reached the state final for the first time since 1995 and finished with a 14-4-2 record.
After a 5-3 start, the team peaked by going unbeaten in their last 11 games before the state final. The Wildcats were the only area soccer team to play for a state championship this year. They fell to 11-time defending state champion Stratford.
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