The Ringgold Lady Tigers, the No. 2 seed from Region 6-AAA, took the field on Tuesday night for their first state soccer playoff match since 2015 - their first one at home since 2013 - against the Lady Warriors of White County, who came into the contest as the No. 3 seed from Region 7, but in name only.
At 14-3 overall, the Lady Warriors tied for their region's regular season title. It was only because of goal differential that the Lady Warriors, ranked No. 4 in all of Class AAA headed into the state tournament, ended up as the No. 3 seed behind top-seeded and No. 3-ranked Lumpkin County and No. 2-seeded and No. 8-ranked Cherokee Bluff.
And once the match began, it didn't take long for fans at Don Patterson Field to see just how skilled the ladies from Cleveland, Ga. actually were.
Controlling possession for nearly all of the match, White County knocked home five first-half goals and went to an 8-0 victory, ending one of the best seasons in Lady Tigers' history.
Hazen Ramey got the Lady Warriors on the board first, redirecting a crossing pass in front of the Ringgold net just 5:29 into the contest and Sydnee Nix would add a second goal approximately 10 minutes later.
One of the few scoring chances for the Lady Tigers came with just under 18 minutes left in the opening half. A foul led to a free kick by Alayna Custer just outside the 18-yard box and the sophomore put a low shot on net that keeper Naomi Roberts could not corral. Ringgold swarmed after the rebound, but Roberts was able to come off her line and turn away a follow-up shot before the ball could be cleared.
Just seconds later, the Lady Warriors pushed the ball back down the field and Ramey connected to make it 3-0 with 16:51 left before halftime.
A nice move by Madison Hunter allowed her to slip past a defender and beat Ringgold keeper Scottie Parton for a fourth goal with 8:07 left and McKinley Jones tacked on a fifth goal with 3:38 remaining before intermission.
The Lady Warriors added three more tallies in the second half to seal the win. Parton collected eight saves on the night for the Lady Tigers.
The loss ended a stellar season for the Blue-and-White at 9-3 overall (7-1 in region play) after the program had gone a combined 1-19-3 in its past two full seasons (2018 and 2019). The 2020 team sat at 1-1-2 when the season was cut short by COVID-19.
Region 7 sweeps Region 6
Tuesday night turned out to be a tough one all the way around for girls' teams from Region 6.
In Flowery Branch, Cherokee Bluff (11-3-1) handed Region 6 No. 3 seed LFO a 6-0 loss. All six goals came from freshmen, including three by Kaitlin Cook, who now has 27 goals on the season, according to acesswdun.com.
LFO keeper Joanna Matute had 29 saves for the Lady Warriors, who finished the season at 11-6 overall and 6-2 in the region.
Coahulla Creek, the region's No. 4 seed, dropped a 10-0 decision to Lumpkin County (12-4-1) in Dahlonega, while Adairsville, the top seed from Region 6 who entered the playoffs with a No. 6 state ranking by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, suffered a 2-0 upset loss at home to North Hall, the No. 4 seed from Region 7.
The Heritage Lady Generals, the No. 2 seed from Region 7, will open the Class AAAA state tournament at home on Thursday against Arabia Mountain, the No. 3 seed from Region 6. Kickoff is set for 5:30 p.m. Meanwhile, Ridgeland's girls will make their first state appearance since 1998 that same day. The No. 4-seeded Lady Panthers will get a test from Region 6 champion and top-ranked Marist in Atlanta.
On the boys' side, No. 3-seeded LaFayette will head to Cherokee Bluff today (Wednesday) to take on the No. 8-ranked Bears in a first-round Class AAA tournament match, while Heritage, the No. 4 seed from Region 7, will begin the Class AAAA state playoffs on Friday at No. 3-ranked Marist, the champions of Region 6.