CONYERS - It's only the second round of the Class AAAA playoffs, but the Salem and Heritage girls soccer teams both face top-10 postseason showdowns this evening.
The No. 3 Lady Seminoles (16-3) will play host to No. 4 Northgate (17-2) at 6 p.m. in Seminole Stadium, while No. 7 Heritage (10-4-4) plays at top-ranked Marist (17-1) at 5:30 p.m. The rankings are compiled by eurosportscoreboard.com.
Northgate at Salem
Something will have to give when the Lady Seminoles square off with the Lady Vikings.
Salem enters the game on an eight-game winning streak, while Northgate has won seven of its last eight games.
"Northgate will be a difficult team," Salem coach Heather Cheek said. "I expect that they will play physically and will want to win. We will need to make sure to play with a high level of intensity and maintain possession of the ball."
Salem is coming off a 7-0 victory over Woodland-Bartow in the opening round. Taylor Gates scored three goals in the win
The Lady Seminoles, who have won four straight Area 8-AAAA championships, dominated their opening round playoff game, outshooting Woodland 15-0 in the first half.
Northgate collected a 1-0 victory on the road at Chamblee to advance to the second round.
The Lady Vikings finished with a 10-1 record in the always-strong Area 5-AAAA. Northgate tied with Starr's Mill and Whitewater for first place in that area but got the No. 3 seed due to a tiebreaker.
The two squads have played one common opponent this season - McIntosh. Salem beat McIntosh 3-2 on March 21, while Whitewater needed penalty kicks to claim a 1-0 win on March 13.
Heritage at Marist
For the second straight year, the Lady Patriots face an early-round game against the Lady War Eagles.
Last season, Marist prevailed 4-1 in the opening round of the Class AAAA playoffs.
Heritage coach Chad Suddeth said his squad is up for the challenge of taking on the top-ranked squad in Class AAAA.
"Yes, they are a tough matchup, but we're up for the challenge. We've played a lot of elite level teams this year and we've held our own with many of them," he said. "Hopefully, that experience will give our players confidence going into this match. We are fully aware of their strong tradition, but we have a pretty strong tradition here at Heritage, too."
Heritage beat Dalton 3-0 in its opening round game, while Marist topped McIntosh 3-1.
"One of the keys to our success will be if our attack can penetrate their defense and get behind them to create more scoring opportunities," Suddeth said. "In our last matchup with Marist, we were unable to do that and had very few chances at goal. Another important element for us will be playing sound defense. Last year, (keeper) Melissa Drish recorded 22 saves. We'll need another quality performance from her to be successful, but, hopefully, our defense can make her job a little easier this time around."
Jeff Gillespie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SideBar: Soccer playoffs
Girls Second Round
· Heritage at Marist, 5:30 p.m.
· Northgate at Salem, 6 p.m.