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Thursday, April 28, 2011 - 2:13pm

Collins Hill Boys, North Gwinnett Girls Look to Repeat Success in Soccer Playoffs

State soccer tournaments are underway throughout Georgia, so playoff fever will be prevalent on the pitch over the next two weeks. Leading the charge is Collins Hill, which is looking to become the first boys team to win three consecutive state championships in the highest classification.
The Eagles register at No. 2 in the Coaches Poll behind top-ranked Lassiter. They are 16-1 overall and have won 10 straight games following their lone loss of the season, a 2-1 setback to Northview back on March 11.
“Over the past few weeks, the boys have really begun to peak,” head coach Drew Prentice told the Atlanta Journal Constitution. “We still have some kinks to work out, but we are playing good soccer at the moment. Our team chemistry is stronger than I imagined it at the beginning of the year after losing so many seniors.”
Collins Hill, though, should have plenty of competition from Lassiter and from 2008 champion Walton. The Raiders are 11-4-1 and head into the postseason at No. 5 in Class 5A. They fell to Collins Hill 3-0 earlier this month but tested Lassiter in a narrow 1-0 loss on April 15.
“We have dealt with injuries and have been inconsistent,” Walton coach Bucky Boozer noted. “But we are healthy now and I feel good about our chances going into the playoffs. We’re just going to take it one game at a time, as always.”
In Class 2A, the state tournament could resemble a chaotic regular-season in Region 6. Six of the top eight teams in the state hail from that region, but it still had to send just four to the postseason. Buford and Lovett were the odd ones out, while Greater Atlanta Christian, Westminster, Cross Keys and Blessed Trinity continue their title quests.
The North Gwinnett girls kicked off their Class 5A state championship defense on Tuesday by hammering Etowah 4-0. Junior midfielder Lauren Harriman notched a hat-trick for the fourth-ranked Bulldogs, who improved to 17-3.
“Getting one goal would’ve been good, but three was more than I could’ve asked for,” Harriman told the Gwinnett Daily Post. “It’s awesome because every team in the playoffs is going to be good and give us their best.”
Among those contenders is top-ranked Harrison, which is on the other side of the bracket and kicked off its tournament by crushing Luella 9-0 on Tuesday. Harrison is on a collision course for the quarterfinals with Collins Hill while North Gwinnett could meet fifth-ranked Milton as early as round two.
In Class 4A, McIntosh’s girls lead the way as the No. 1 team ahead of challengers that include Whitewater, Lambert, Marist and Starr’s Mill. The story may not be any different on the boys side. Lambert tops the charts at No. 1, followed by Starr’s Mill and Marist with McIntosh registering at No. 6. Both the girls and the boys at Starr’s Mill are defending 2010 titles.
The Gainesville boys do not have a favorable draw for their quest to make it back-to-back triumphs in Class 3A. A potential second-round clash against top-ranked and 2009 champion St. Pius X is on tap for the Red Elephants. On the girls side, Pius is the two-time defending champion and also holds the No. 1 spot in the rankings ahead of Region 5 foes Woodward and Riverwood.