CONYERS - As in most sports in Class AAAA, to be the best, sooner or later you have to play Marist.
For the Salem girls, today's semifinal matchup with the Lady War Eagles is for a shot at playing on the highest stage in high school sports - the state finals.
Today's game looks to be visually appealing on and off the field as Salem is calling for a blackout in the stands.
"We're asking all of the fans to wear black," Salem girls coach Heather Richardson said. "One of the parents came up with the idea after she heard that all the Marist fans and parents wear white, so we're asking everyone to wear black."
Standing in the way of a trip to the finals, however, is a team that has not been defeated this season.
"They're the No. 1 team in their region, they're 17-0 and they're ranked No. 1 in the state in AAAA," Richardson said. "They're going to be a good, fast team."
Richardson said her team will need to hit the field running and ready to play when the game begins at 7 p.m. today at Reid Memorial Stadium
"We need to come out very strong and capitalize on our strengths. I think we'll match up with them all over the field as far as speed goes," she said. "We just need to play the game that we know how to play, which is getting the ball out wide to our outside midfielders and getting in behind their defense."
The Salem girls have been on fire as of late, imposing their will throughout the playoffs en route to today's semifinal matchup with Marist.
"One reason why we've done so well lately is because we're so focused on working together as a team," Richardson said. "We know each other's strengths and we know each other's weaknesses, so we're doing what we need to do to capitalize on those strengths that we have."
Richardson said the atmosphere within and around her team right now is almost electric.
"The girls are so excited. They are pumped up for this game," she said. "I noticed they're talking a lot to each other about what the other team is like and what they need to do. I really think they're pulling together and they know what they need to do to win and make it a successful night. I know they're ready and fired up."
Richardson also noted how Heritage girls coach Chad Suddeth, whose team had its season end at the hands of Marist in the first round of state, offered up his thoughts about the matchup.
"The Heritage coach was very good about giving me pointers and tendencies about the way that they played against them," she said.
Brandon Evans can be reached at email@example.com.