Big season for Troup soccer program
Published 1:45 pm Wednesday, May 26, 2021
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
It was a breakthrough spring for the Troup High soccer program.
Both teams enjoyed successful seasons and advanced to the Class AAAA state playoffs, and that good work hasn’t gone unrecognized.
Troup is well-represented on the all-Region 2-AAAA team that was announced earlier this month.
Both teams placed six players on the all-region team, and half of the players made the first team.
Troup’s boys’ team finished third in the region, and it lost to Benedictine 7-0 in the first round of the state tournament.
Troup’s girls’ team also placed third in the region, and it dropped a hard-fought 1-0 decision to New Hampstead in its state game.
A highlight of the season for the Tigers was a late-season 2-1 victory over the Hardaway Hawks that all but sewed up a state-playoff spot.
Diego Merida, one of Troup’s all-region players, made a penalty kick in the closing moments to give his team a victory.
Troup followed that up with a victory over Kendrick to qualify for the playoffs.
Had Troup lost to Hardaway, it likely would not have made it to the playoffs, so it was a big-time performance in a pressure situation.
“That’s what you’d expect in a playoff atmosphere, and that’s what we got,” Troup coach Eddie Lawson said after the Hardaway game. “They played well, and I told them good luck. They’re in the playoffs. If we lose, we’re out. Our playoffs started tonight. That’s how we looked at it.”
On another enjoyable night, Troup beat Carver 10-0 as the team showed off its improved depth.
Senior goal keeper Elijah Robinson even got into the act that night when he scored the team’s 10th and final goal.
“When we play games like this, we’re finally in a position where we’ve got quality depth, and we can mix and match and try to find different homes for different players,” Lawson said.
Leading the way for the Tigers were their six all-region players, including first-teamers Nolan Barton, Chris Moore and Diego Merida.
Cole Partain, Sirwan Gardi and Tyler Cardwell also made the all-region team for Troup as second-team selections.
Gardi and Cardwell are seniors, and Troup’s other four all-region players will return next season.
Troup’s girls’ team hadn’t qualified for state in a decade, and that changed last season.
Troup secured its spot at state with an 8-1 road win over Spencer, and it was a big moment for some players who have been with the program for four or five years.
Included in that group is senior Alyssa Barton, one of the team’s all-region players.
“We’ve been playing since our eighth-grade year, and we’ve had a lot of coaches,” Barton said after the win over Spencer. “It’s made us closer, so we connect more. We’ve grown close to each other, on and off the field. It’s made us a better team.”
Troup’s first-team all-region players are Alyssa Barton, Emily Beesley and Felicity Gill.
Gill showed off her offensive firepower when she scored five goals in the critical win over Spencer.
Earning a second-team selection is senior Emme Thrailkill, who like Barton had been with the program since she was in the eighth grade.
Troup’s other second-team players are Allie Foster and freshman Loriana Reed, who enjoyed an exceptional season as the goal keeper, even though she was a newcomer to the sport.
“She’s never played soccer before,” said Lawson, who was the head coach for the girls’ and boys’ teams. “She has made a world of difference to our team. You just can’t get past her. She does a great job.”
Lawson is glad to see some enthusiasm for the soccer program growing at the school, and the 2022 season should be another successful one.
“We’re starting to get some excitement about the program,” Lawson said. “That’s what we’ve needed. You start winning, and you get people pumped up and excited about it.”
OF NOTE: For a look at LaGrange High’s all-region players, see Thursday’s sports section