Five weeks into another promising campaign, the Eastside girls soccer team fell victim to the COVID-19 pandemic, much like all of their fellow spring sport counterparts did in mid March.
The Eagles entered their March 13 match against Columbus with a 5-3 record and were ranked inside the Top 10 in Class AAAA, reaching as high as seventh prior to the season’s sudden suspension and subsequent cancellation.
In good position to make the playoffs for a third consecutive season, Eastside head coach Joel Singleton said it was beyond disappointing to watch their season come to an abrupt close.
“To name just one hardest part of cancelling would be impossible,” Singleton said. “The list would be no senior night, no finality of what our goals were. No opportunity to replicate our 2019 season or improve upon it. Personal and team record opportunities were denied. Seeing those 2-3 players emerge and start to stand out that every season holds. All of those things were lost.”
While Singleton and the Eagles won’t ever know what the ultimate fate of their 2020 high school season was, several bright spots emerged over the first five weeks.
That list includes defeating cross-county foe Heritage for the first time in program history, as well as Singleton earning his 100th career victory.
Their season started with their first ever win against the Patriots, a 2-1 victory. Heritage finished ranked No. 7 in the final AAAAAA poll, having lost only to Eastside and ranked North Oconee.
“That was a long time coming,” Singleton said. “We battled and made the big plays in the second half when we had to. We capitalized on some big attacks and that’s how you win those types of games.”
In spite of two match cancellations due to weather in Week 2, the Lady Eagles rose to No. 7 in AAAA, the highest state ranking in program history.
On March 3, the team earned career win No. 100 for head coach Joel Singleton.
As of the final Class AAAA rankings, all three of the Eagles losses were to Class AAAA ranked teams including No. 3 North Oconee, No. 9 Woodward Academy and No. 10 Northwest Whitfield.
Eastside finished 2-1-0 in Region 4-AAAA and were in a tie for third place with Luella. The Eagles held the tie-breaker after defeating the Lions 7-2 in what was their final match of the season.
In eight games, the Lady Eagles scored 46 goals with 13 different girls chipping in with at least one goal. Four different players scored game-winning goals. 11 players on the team recorded at least one assist. Defensively, they allowed only nine goals and recorded three clean sheets.
Aralyn Everett led the team with 11 goals scored. Lizzie Teasley netted nine and Mya Cummings scored eight. Everett scored 2 game-winning goals while Teasley, Bailey Love and Katie Oakley each notched one game-winner.
Cummings led the Lady Eagles in assists with six followed by Everett, Teasley, Oakley and Liz Ozburn with four each.
Goalkeeper Anna Shelton recorded three shutouts. Defensively, the Lady Eagles allowed 1.13 goals per match, which topped the program record of 1.15 posted by the 2019 Elite 8 squad.
The Lady Eagles even saw their co-captain, Ozburn, commit to play college soccer for NAIA Middle Georgia State University, as well as Cumming.
“I just want to say I’m proud of the work the team did in approximately nine weeks of a season,” Singleton said. “Nine weeks that included rain every week. I couldn’t help but laugh to myself at the tremendously beautiful weather during late March and all of April after what we had to endure earlier in the year. I look forward to how we can regroup and move forward for next year. Our girls and families have been great and I’m thankful for each of them.”