That state title capped a 20-2 record that included a perfect 10-0 run through Region 7AAA. The state championship team also tallied 121 goals and posted 18 shutouts.
There could be more glorious moments this season with the Lady Buccaneers returning eight starters.
Even though Allatoona is bringing back most of its players, it did jump into Class AAAAA, where it’s expecting stiffer competition. For that reason, the Lady Buccaneers may have to alter their playing style — which may include cutting down on their excessive goal-scoring.
Having played primarily Class AAA teams last season, Allatoona had five 10-0 shutouts last year, with one coming in the second round of the state tournament.
“We’re in a higher class, and there probably won’t be as many blowouts,” said midfielder Suzanne Arafa, the team’s only senior. “But I still think our offense will be a strong as we were last year.”
Another piece of good news for Allatoona is that they also have experienced defenders. Juniors Ash Daf, Aleiya Armstrong and Hannah Ward played together last season and were largely responsible for the 18 shutouts.
Having those three players in the backfield should help break in a new goalkeeper, junior Emily Jones, and coach Bill Perry is confident that the trio will come through for him.
“I think we have to build from the back, and the defense needs to be the anchor point of our team,” Perry said. “Instead of being a scoring juggernaut, we will have to live with one or two goals and learn to play tight games. That starts with our defense, and I’m almost positive they can handle anything we throw at them.”
The Lady Buccaneers also have the talent to keep the ball away from their side of the field. They return their most experienced midfielder in Arafa, who can control the tempo of the offense.
Junior forward Willough Davis, last year’s Cobb County/Marietta Daily Journal Player of the Year, is also returning this season. With speed making up for size, Davis is skilled at winning 1-on-1 battles inside the box.
Freshman forward Caroline Gulec is projected to fill the shoes of departed senior Kristy Wise.
Sophomores Sammi Jacob and Sarah Whitt have improved since their freshman seasons and will contribute in the midfield along with junior newcomer Ana Mandujano. And Perry said freshman Beth Ann Shires is capable of winning a starting position in the midfield or in the back.
“I think we have some individual strengths in each of our returning players,” Perry said. “The knowledge that they have, and the amount of club (games) that they play, they bring on that knowledge and know how to win the big games. The big challenge is to get the newer players to compete at the level of our returning players.”
Allatoona’s Region 5AAAAA schedule will also have its challenges.
East Paulding was 13-5 and made the state quarterfinals last season, and North Paulding finished 17-3. Villa Rica could also cause problems after finishing 12-5 last year.
Allatoona will be on the road for its first eight games — starting with Sequoyah on Friday — and its home opener won’t be until March 5 against South Paulding.