After losing to Parkview in last year’s state championship game, the Lady Hoyas were able to get their revenge in convincing fashion, downing the Lady Panthers 4-0 in the semifinals of the Class AAAAAA state playoffs.
Harrison (21-0), ranked 12th nationally in the latest National Soccer Coaches Association of America poll, will face either fifth-ranked Grayson or East Coweta for the title at 5 p.m. Saturday at Kennesaw State’s Fifth Third Bank Stadium.
The Lady Hoyas, who won their only state championship in 2011, will be making their fifth state finals appearance, and their third in the last four years.
“It really feels amazing (to be playing for a championship again),” said Lizzy Sieracki, who had two goals for Harrison. “We can come together as a team, just like we did last year, and made it to the state championship game again. We’re going for it all because we left empty-handed last year, and we don’t want that to happen again.
“We still have to work on some of those kinks and everything, but we played as a real unit (Wednesday), and it really showed on the field. I’m just ready to head to the final.”
The weather wasn’t ideal as rain fell steadily. Harrison shot attempts also rained down upon Parkview goalkeeper Mariah Garner, with the Lady Hoyas owning an 11-2 edge through the game’s first 52 minutes.
By then it was all Harrison, which held a 2-0 halftime lead that it extended to 4-0 with 28:39 remaining in the contest.
“We had a game plan and the girls executed it,” Harrison coach Steve Riccard said. “But in one of these games, where both teams are well-coached and they have great players, we felt like all the other stuff crossed each other out. We emphasized the individual players ‘out-executing’ and ‘out-efforting’ (Parkview). With everything else being even, that was going to be the difference.”
Harrison had four shots on goal in the first 10 minutes until finally getting a score from Carly Rich in the 21st minute, off an assist from Treva Aycock.
The Lady Hoyas picked up their second goal in the 32nd minute when Sieracki dribbled past and through several Parkview defenders and beating Garner in front of the net.
Even though the steady rain turned into a driving downpour in the second half, Harrison didn’t stop scoring.
Aycock beat her defender for the ball and fired a goal from 20 yards to give the Lady Hoyas a 3-0 lead in the 43rd minute.
Sieracki scored Harrison’s final goal in the 52nd minute, off assists from Savannah Vanderbeck’s and Aycock.
“It was slippery out there,” Sieracki said. “We just had to focus in on our first touch and everything. But the weather wasn’t going to stop us. We still had the drive and intensity we needed to win.”
Parkview took the final six shots of the game. Harrison’s second-half goalkeeper, Kelsey Daugherty, made four saves, including two in the 58th minute, to help preserve the victory. First-half keeper Allison Leone didn’t face a shot.
“I thought both teams played hard, but we were able to finish our chances,” Riccard said. “We got some chances in close, and I don’t feel like (Parkview) really got any chances in close. They were shooting from mostly distance. I think that was the significant difference between the four and the zero. The players have to win games like the one today.”
Harrison’s defense has now recorded 16 straight shutouts — the equivalent of 1,280 minutes without a goal.
“The shutout streak isn’t something we think about each game,” Riccard said. “In the individual game, that’s one of the objectives, to have a clean slate at the end. It’s about keeping the ball so that the other team doesn’t have it concept.”
Coming into Wednesday’s game, Parkview had a 5-0 all-time edge against Harrison in the playoffs. The Lady Hoyas’ win not only broke that streak, but also redeemed last year’s finals loss.
“Revenge was definitely on our minds,” Sieracki said. “It was pretty much all of it. It really motivated us and gave us as much intensity as possible. It just made it that much more important to us. It wasn’t the whole game, but it was most of it.”