The Richmond Hill Hornets U-12G soccer team won the 2008 Georgia Soccer Rec State Championship last weekend in Columbus. The Hornets, who had won the district 6 championship the previous weekend, also in Columbus, beat the Alpharetta Ambush Storm 2-1 in the final.
32 of the top rec teams in Georgia entered the U-12G championship. The teams were divided into five districts - one in Columbus and the rest in Atlanta, with the 5 district champions and three wild cards being invited to the state championship round. The Hornets dominated the competition with an overall record of seven wins and one tie, outscoring their opponents by 23 goals to 7.
Sarah Connelly was the top Hornet goal scorer with 12 goals. Cheyenne Prescott lead the strong Hornet defense with outstanding play, in spite of needing her damaged toenail completely removed on Saturday night. Cheyenne's father, Scott Prescott, along with another absent Hornet parent Greg Kanicki, father of Hornets defender Micah Kanciki, called in frequently from Iraq throughout both weekends to get score updates while the games were in progress.
The Hornets started the championship weekend with a comfortable 3-1 victory over the NASA (North Atlanta) Tigers. One of the Hornets’ goals was an own goal scored by a defender from a strong Hornet corner kick. Over the course of the two weekends, the Hornets induced their opponents to score three own goals, from accurate and powerful corner kicks by Sarah Connelly and Jasmine Marquez.
The Saturday afternoon game against the FCYSL (Fayette County) Angels was much harder. Playing with a strong wind in the first half, the Angels gave the Hornets a taste of their own medicine, bombarding the Hornet goal with a series of dangerous corners. The Hornet defense stood fast under the pressure, with several excellent quick-reaction saves from Hornet goalkeeper Mackenzee McCauley.
In the second half, a Sarah Connelly penalty gave the Hornets a 1-0 lead but with only five minutes left in game, another dangerous Angels corner kick found its way through the Hornet defense and was turned into the goal by an Angels striker to tie the game.
The last five minutes of the game were intense, as a win for either team would guarantee their place in the final. Both teams had chances, but when the final whistle blew, the score remained a 1-1 tie. This created an interesting situation for the Sunday morning game, as the Hornets and Angels played on adjacent fields, where neither team had full control over their own destiny. A win for the Angels would mean the Hornets had to both win their game and outscore the Angels by at least 2 goals to advance to the final. For the first 40 minutes of the game, the issue remained in doubt, but then the Hornets offense took over.
The Hornets beat the GSA (Gwinnett County) Mixed Nuts by a score of 5-1, while the Angels could only tie their game 1-1, putting the Hornets into the state championship final. As in the district final the previous week, the Hornets started the final game against Alpharetta with a strong wind advantage but, despite heavy pressure on the Storm goal, the teams were tied 0-0 at the end of the first half. However the Hornets would not be denied the reward their superior play deserved. Early in the second half a pass from Alison Kaye was pounced on by speedy Hornets striker Emily Johnson. Emily raced around 2 Storm defenders and when the Storm goalkeeper missed the ball, Emily was there for a simple kick into the net for the first Hornet goal. A few minutes later Jasmine Marquez scored a second and decisive goal for the Hornets with a fine individual effort. Defensive stand-out Cheyenne Prescott won the ball and passed it forward to Jasmine. The skillful Hornets midfielder dribbled around 2 Storm players and 3 defenders converged to knock her to the ground. But it was too late - Jasmine had already tucked the ball neatly into the corner of the net. The Storm managed a consolation goal late in the game which made for a few tense minutes of play but the Hornets held on to win the championship.
"What these girls achieved in this championship was amazing,” said Hornets coach David Kaye. “We started our season with a 6-0 defeat, and we only won four of our eight games during the regular season. I was initially not intending to enter the state championship but as the season progressed the girls started to play some very good soccer and, as they learned from their mistakes, I began to think that we might just have a chance. It costs a lot of money to travel all that way for two weekends, but the parents were willing to try it, and the girls certainly rewarded us. Each one of them was magnificent."
Grandmother Betty Hulse, one of seven grandparents who made the long journey, said the road trip was “worth every penny to see the girls play so well. I'm just glad I remembered my blood pressure medicine because it was so exciting."