Marietta’s Lara Couch will attend Georgia Southern University, where she will study kinesiology.

Lara Couch was crushed.

She was crushed by the weight of the moment, the weight of the crowd and, more importantly, by the weight of her teammates who saddled her to form one universal victory formations — the dogpile.

As Marietta’s goalkeeper, Couch is tasked with the most organically defensive position in sports. That rings especially true with penalty kicks — a test of a keeper’s skill, speed and luck.

Saving seven of 10 penalty kicks in a shootout against Wheeler, Couch cemented the Lady Blue Devils’ victory. She had won the game, and the dogpile was something Couch said was “a memory I will never forget.”

Couch, however, did not know that it would be the peak of her high school career — one cut short by the coronavirus pandemic.

Still, that has not changed her legacy. Couch dealt with her share of adversity in her rise to success in soccer, with her lack of height a catalyst.

“It was definitely difficult for me,” said the 5-foot-1 Couch. “I had people and coaches telling me I wasn’t good enough, or that I would never be good, and I think I really used that to prove them wrong.”

Couch’s actions spoke louder than her words. She shouldered the blame for losses, but by her abbreviated senior season, Couch she had amassed a laundry list of accolades on and off the field — she was a two-time Lamp of Knowledge winner for academic success, earned several collegiate offers and scholar-athlete recognition, and she was an essential piece of two state playoff teams. She had, in effect, proved her critics wrong.

The shortened season also cemented one of Couch’s most important virtues in life — perseverance.

“Soccer is something I have put a lot of time into, and I have given up many things for it,” she said. “Perseverance is one of my most defining qualities and has helped me get where I am today — and if others persevere and try hard enough, they can achieve what they want, too.”

Couch will have ample opportunity to test this as she heads to Georgia Southern University with intentions to study kinesiology, in hopes to pursue a career in exercise science.

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