Starr’s Mill head coach John Bowen feels like he learned a lot a year ago when his team advanced to the GHSA Class AAAAA girls soccer championship game only to lose to McIntosh.
He used all of those lessons Friday as the Panthers shut out rival Northgate 2-0 to win the Class AAAAA championship. Starr’s Mill got a goal from Lauren Yoss in the 18th minute and added another goal nine minutes later that was more than enough to earn the win.
“I feel like I had a bad day last year because I made too big of a deal of being in the state championship game, but I realized later that it’s really just another game,” said Bowen, who is in his third season as the head coach at Starr’s Mill. “This year, we had an experienced team coming back, and they understood that this is not special until we are getting that championship trophy and putting our state championship T-shirts on. There are really no secrets when we play Northgate because we are in the same region, so it’s just getting on the field and getting the job done.
“Scoring the first goal makes everything a little easier for a while, and it gave us momentum. After that, we just got the job done.”
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Northgate simply could not stop Yoss from scoring to give the Panthers the lead and shortly afterward suffered some misfortune. Yoss centered the ball to two teammates who were making a run in the middle, and Northgate’s Ashton Murray did all she could to get to the ball but ended up putting it in her own goal.
“I saw Riley Clark open in the middle, but at about the same time, I saw their keeper moving towards the back post,” Yoss said of her goal. “When I saw her moving, I figured the front post was open, so I went there, and thankfully the ball went in.”
Northgate did not go down quietly and had several shots at goal in the second half, with the best chance being a Cathleen Hoffman attempt in the 60th minute. But Starr’s Mill keeper Paige Betsill was able to turn it away to preserve the shutout.
“I have to give Northgate a lot of credit, because they were missing some key people, and they still made us work for everything we got,” Bowen said. “Every time we play them, it always goes down to the wire, and we were just able to play a great game.”
Greater Atlanta Christian claimed the Class AA girls championship with a 2-1 win over Lovett.