The St. Pius X Golden Lions are back on top of the soccer mountain after winning the girls’ Class AAAA state title May 17 at Mercer University in Macon.
St. Pius defeated Flowery Branch 6-0 to win their sixth state championship in seven years and ninth in program history. Sophomore forward Renee Lyles led the team with three goals. Lyles said her contribution to the team’s victory feels great.
“I think we all worked really well together as a team and I’m happy to see all of our hard work pay off,” she said.
Coach Sara Schmitt said the team played their best game.
“We had a touch game [in the semifinals]; we really didn’t play our best and I think today was more about, ‘Hey, we can play better,’” Schmitt said. “So, we went out there, we kind of knew [Flowery Branch’s] game plan and what they were going to do, and we stuck to our game plan and just kept putting it on them.”
Senior Helen Cherry gave St. Pius a 1-0 lead at the 35-minute mark after a backward kick to the goal. Lyles extended the lead to 2-0 before halftime at the 39-minute mark after she got past the goalie for a goal.
In the second half, sophomore forward Clare Gornowicz extended the Golden Lions’ lead to 3-0 after an assist on a corner kick. Two second-half goals by Lyles gave St. Pius a 5-0 lead. Schmitt said Lyles has been a great addition to the program.
“She’s our leading goal scorer with 35 goals this season,” Schmitt said. “She’s so crafty with the ball. She is an obvious target for the other team to step at her and defend her, and we’re able to support her; but then she keeps getting herself open, and she keeps going and going, and scores incredible goals.”
Senior forward Helen Kolker closed the game with a goal with 55 seconds remaining to bring the final score to 6-0. Schmitt said it felt great to come back to the title game and redeem themselves after losing in last year’s title game to rival Marist.
“Last year, nobody really thought we would make it to that final game and then we did,” she said. “We were upset, for sure, because we felt like we were in it. This year, we [returned] most of the team, we only graduated three seniors, and just keeping that team chemistry and that goal to come back and win it was the main thing.”
Lakeside boys fell to Lambert 2-1 in the Class AAAAAAA finals match May 18 at McEachern High School. Lambert gained a 1-0 in the second half before Lakeside tied the game two minutes later. However, Lambert scored with 1:46 left in the game to seal the victory.