By Chip Saye
For the AJC
If the strength of a soccer region can be measured by its teams’ performances in the state playoffs, then 5-AAAA wins hands down this year.
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.Six teams from the region, including all four of the Class AAAA girls semifinalists, will be competing this week for a spot in the state championship game. Whitewater’s girls, the region’s No. 1 seed and state’s top-ranked team, will host Northgate (No. 4 seed, ranked eighth) in one semifinal on Wednesday and McIntosh (No. 3 seed, ranked fourth) travels to Starr’s Mill (No. 2 seed, ranked No. 2) in the other.
“I am very excited to have all four of our teams in the semifinals,” Starr’s Mill coach Deanise Myers said. “It makes a statement about how strong our region’s top teams are in the state. We are all within 10 miles of each other and for our county [Fayette] to have three schools represented is awesome. It is a testament to how successful our high school soccer programs are within the community. We all put our high schools on the map.”
The boys teams from Starr’s Mill and McIntosh also advanced to the semifinals, where they will play Tuesday against two teams from Region 6-AAAA. Top-ranked McIntosh hosts defending state champion Marist and second-ranked Starr’s Mill goes on the road to face third-ranked Lakeside-DeKalb.
In Class AAAAA boys play, the playoffs have backed up what the rankings have indicated all season, which is that Regions 6 and 7 are the best in the state’s highest classification. Two teams from each region — Collins Hill and Northview from Region 7, Milton and Centennial from Region 6 — will meet in Tuesday night’s semifinals.
Milton faces defending state champion Collins Hill, which is seeking its third consecutive trip to the final. Each team finished as the runner-up in its region.
“It’s been a long trip to get to this point,” Collins Hill coach Drew Prentice said. “The teams that are left have proven themselves by beating very good teams through the playoffs to this point. There are teams that went out in the first round like Lassiter [of Region 6] that are some of the best in the state.”
The other semifinal matches region champions Centennial and Northview. Centennial is led by North Carolina signee Carlos McCrary, who has 25 goals this season, including four in the playoffs.
“You have to bring your ‘A’ game each and every night in order to find success in our region,” Centennial coach Philip Thomas said. “That experience during the regular season allows your kids to mentally prepare for the challenges of making a run to the state finals. I know that is the same situation in Region 7.”
State soccer semifinals
Boys Games (Tuesday)
Collins Hill at Milton, 8 p.m.
Northview at Centennial, 8 p.m.