CONYERS - Both Salem soccer squads and the Heritage girls soccer team have drawn tough opponents in the first round of the Class AAAA state tournament.
The Salem girls, by winning the Region 8-AAAA title, have earned a No. 1 seed in the state tournament and will host North Springs at 6 p.m. today at Reid Memorial Stadium North Springs is the No. 4 seed from 6-AAAA.
"They're in a tough region. Even though they're a four seed, they're no team to be taken lightly. It's going to be a tough matchup," Salem girls coach Heather Richardson said.
Although Salem and North Springs have no common opponents this season, Richardson did note that the Lady Spartans lost 3-2 in overtime to Lakeside-DeKalb, the No. 9-ranked team in the state, earlier this season.
Richardson said the key for her team will be intensity and focus.
"First and foremost, we've got to come out strong. We have to be the first one to the ball and win balls in the air," she said. "We have to play aggressively and keep that intensity up throughout the game."
Richardson does feel it's an advantage to be playing within the friendly confines of Reid Stadium.
"I think it's definitely an advantage to be playing at home at Reid," she said. "The field is in great condition and the fans are there to support us, which really helps our game."
Meanwhile, the Salem boys, having earned a No. 3 seed in the state tournament, will travel to St. Pius to take on the Golden Lions. The game is slated for 7 p.m. at St. Pius. The Golden Lions are the No. 2 seed from 6-AAAA.
Salem boys coach Sean DeWeese said it will be a very physical game.
"They're aggressive and they're going to be a physical team. They're good, looking at their record, who they've played and the region they're in," he said.
DeWeese said the key to get a win will be working had and playing mistake-free soccer.
"It's going to take a lot of hard work. This is not a game where we can give them any extra advantages," he said. "It's going to have to be a game of no mistakes."
DeWeese said preparation for the game has gone well and he's looking forward to seeing what his team does.
"They're definitely taking it seriously. This is a team that's been focused all year," he said. "They're not going to give up."
The Heritage girls look to have the toughest draw of anyone in Class AAAA as the Lady Patriots will take on No. 1-ranked Marist at 5:30 p.m. today at Marist.
"I know that they're the No. 1 team. They're undefeated and they've only allowed two goals all season," Heritage girls coach Chad Suddeth said. "We've definitely got our work cut out for us."
Suddeth said his team is certainly the underdog on paper, but games aren't played on paper.
"I feel that we're good enough to beat anybody if we put our best foot forward," he said. "We're going to give it our best shot and see if it's good enough. The girls are ready. I'm going to give them my best Vince Lombardi speech and see if I can't light a fire underneath them."
In Class AAAAA, the Newton girls will visit East Coweta at 5:30 p.m.
Brandon Evans can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.