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Bittersweet: Richmond Hill soccer super season ends in Elite 8
RH soccer 1
Courtney Allen takes a shot during Richmond Hill’s 4-2 loss to River Ridge on Monday at Wildcat Stadium in the girls 6A Elite Eight soccer match. Photos by Mike Brown.

UPDATE: Wildcats standout Sarah Nilo-Hungerford did not receive credit for a goal. The goal was erroneously credited to fellow Wildcat star Courtney Allen. Hungerford also had an assist on an earlier goal by Kayla Jackson. Hungerford, who has been a prolific scorer for the Wildcats in her four years of varsity play, has signed to play with Division II powerhouse Columbus State University. Under Coach Jay Euclid the Cougars have dominated the Peach Belt Conference and have advanced to the NCAA tournament 14 times. Allen, a junior, has teamed with Hungerford the last two seasons to give Richmond Hill one of the top one-two scoring punches in the area. She has committed to play at Division I University of North Florida which is coached by former Armstrong State University coach Eric Faulkner. The Ospreys have gone 30-12-5 the last three seasons under Faulkner who was 172-54-23 in 12 years at Armstrong. The Wildcats were 18-3 in a season highlighted by winning their first Region 2-6A championship since 2016 and advancing to the Elite Eight.

It was a bittersweet ending to one of the finest seasons ever for the Richmond Hill girls soccer team. The Wildcats, a No. 1 seed under third-year coach Dorothy Biron, were looking to reach the Final Four of the GHSA Class 6A state playoffs for the first time Monday night when they took on No. 4 seed River Ridge.

The Knights’ seeding was a bit misleading was they were ranked No. 9 in the state at the start of tournament play despite finishing fourth in an extremely strong Region 7 which now has three teams in the semifinals, Chattahoochee and Cambridge being the others.

In a game basically decided in a one-minute span at the close of the first half River Ridge had to hold off a late charging Wildcats team, 4-2, to advance.

“The first half is not what we wanted,” Biron said. “In the second half we came back and played like the team we’ve been all season.” “We had a phenomenal season,” Biron said. “We won our first region championship since 2016, reached the Elite 8 and beat Glynn Academy for the first time in five years. At the beginning of the season the girls listed beating Glynn as their top goal.”

The Wildcats finished at 18-3 and had an 11-game winning streak, 10 of them by shutouts, snapped by the Knights (13-7-1). That win total represents the second most in school history only behind the 2015 team which was 19-1.

Biron is now 37-9 at Richmond Hill including a 25-3 record—all three losses were to Glynn—in region play. This was the Wildcats’ first Elite 8 appearance since 2017.

“This was a disappointing loss but it can’t take away from a great season,” Biron said. “It was just too late for us when we got into a flow. I think it was awesome to see how in the last 28 minutes they showed how they could play.”

In a game where the Wildcats seemed to be a half step slower and somewhat sluggish at the beginning a strong defensive effort kept them in the game but the bubble burst with 1:58 left in the first half.

The Knights were holding on to a 1-0 lead following a goal by Ines Obradovac with 30:30 on the clock. From that point on defenses dominated until Obradovac found an opening and drilled a shot past Wildcats goalie Olivia Lassiter with 1:58 left in the half.

Seeking to take advantage of that momentum River Ridge went back on the attack and got a big break when Galloway and Obradovac collided in front of the Wildcat net a minute later.

Galloway was called for a foul and on the penalty kick the stronglegged Obradovac got her third goal of the game when she easily beat the defenseless Galloway on a perfectly placed kick.

“That goal was on me,” Galloway said. “I fouled her. They make a lot of simple passes and are very good at pivoting. They don’t do a lot of one-on-one and I got caught (out of position) and hit her.”

That goal was one only 13 Galloway and the Wildcats gave up all season. For the 21 games Richmond Hill outscored opponents 130-13.

Trailing 4-0 the Wildcats finally broke the ice with 25:48 to go—10 seconds after the Knights had scored— when Kayla Jackson scored.

At that point the game took on a different tone with the Wildcats being the aggressor.

Sarah Nilo-Hungerford scored three minutes after Jackson and suddenly it was 4-2 with plenty of time remaining.

Richmond Hill kept up the pressure and missed a golden opportunity when Courtney Allen's shot hit the top of the crossbar at the 7:23 mark. 

“They were definitely faster than us and aggressive on the inside," Allen said. "Despite losing we did an amazing job this season. We bonded well on and off the field.”

The future looks bright for the Wildcats who return 13 players including the talented Allen. They lost eight seniors.

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