LaGrange falls to soccer powerhouse Westminster in the elite eight

Published 11:00 pm Tuesday, April 25, 2023

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It was not the Cinderella ending the LaGrange boys soccer team had in mind as they fell 7-2 to Westminster in the AAAA state quarterfinals.

“Welcome to Westminster where they don’t have the most boys and girls state championships in soccer for no reason,” LaGrange coach Shane Pulliam said. 

LaGrange trekked up to Atlanta on Tuesday with eyes on making history with the team’s first ever appearance in a state semifinals but it was not in the cards as the Grangers ran into a juggernaut in the Westminster Wildcats, who regularly compete for state championships.

The Grangers fell into an early hole with the Wildcats scoring in the opening three minutes before doubling their lead 10 minutes into the game. It was a Wildcat onslaught in the first half with five more goals coming before the break including the final one 24 seconds before halftime to give the Wildcats a 7-0 lead.

“You don’t ever know how a game is going to go but odds are something is going to go wrong and it’s all about how you react to it,” Pulliam said. “We gave up an early goal and instead of fighting harder we let in a few more and couldn’t solve our problems until halftime.”

A shortened second half saw the Grangers come together and fight back even if the Wildcat win was never in doubt. Two seniors — Jordan Bryant and Davis Knight — were able to get on the scoresheet in the final 10 minutes for the Grangers with a goal apiece. Knight finished the season as the team’s leading goal scorer with 28 while Bryant was second in the team with 22. They combined to score 68% of the goals for LaGrange this season and that sort of production will be extremely difficult to replace.

“We came out in the second half with a little more heat and showed more character,” Pulliam said. “We pulled two goals back, I just wish we could have played like that in the first half.”

These will not be the only two Grangers that played in their final games in blue, black and white on Tuesday. Jan Alvarado, Bo Beall, Reese Lester, Brenner Martinez, Andy Patton, Luke Patton, Desmond Cockfield and Spencer Stephens were all valuable contributors to the team that will be moving on in a month’s time.

“They have been huge for the program,” Pulliam said. “Two of them were co-players of the region this year (Bryant and Knight), and we were region champions. It doesn’t feel like it now, but it was a good season and these seniors were a big part of that.”

LaGrange has now made two trips to the state quarterfinals in the last three years and is still looking to break through to the semifinals.

“We are going to have to come back a little but hungrier and with a chip on our shoulder,” Pulliam said. 

The Grangers finished one of the best seasons in program history with an 11-9-1 record.