Playing against a number of Georgia’s elite teams, the Lions were 4-5 overall and 0-3 in Area 6AA and were ranked third in soccerinfo.com’s Class AA poll going into Friday’s game at Wesleyan.
“We just felt like we needed to beef up our schedule a little bit,” Lovett coach Will Lozier said. “We’ve gone the other direction the last few years, with matches against Cross Keys and some of the newer programs who don’t have a whole lot in terms of developed players. I felt it was important to get the girls some tough opposition, where they would face some adversity.”
Lovett’s has certainly battled some challenging teams in the non-area portion of its schedule, defeating the No. 8 Class AAA powerhouse Oconee County 3-1 Feb. 22 and losing to Woodward — ranked fifth in AAA — 2-0 Feb. 26.
But, the biggest challenge the Lions face lies in their own area — with Greater Atlanta Christian and archrival Westminster the top two teams in AA and Wesleyan ranked eighth.
The good news for Lovett is that, with only four teams in 6AA, it is assured of a state playoff berth.
“The region itself is still the best region in the state for my money,” Lozier said. “The last three state Final Fours have been essentially a region tournament, with all four teams making it to the semis. But, because we are only a four-team region and we’re in automatically — with seeding the only issue, though its still an important issue.”
The Lions still face games against Marist (the top-ranked team in AAAA), St. Pius X (second in AAA) and Starr’s Mill (fourth in AAAAA).
Lovett has gone through its challenging schedule with a younger team that includes five freshmen and five sophomores.
A number of the freshmen are starting and playing key roles — including midfielder Grace Jackson, defender Allie Lourie and forward Megan Kring.
“They have been hugely important and they have helped us replace the seniors that we lost,” Lozier said. “These freshmen have been imperative filling in at these specific roles.”
It is also a well-balanced attack, with the scoring spread evenly among several players.
“We don’t have to rely on one goal scorer,” Lozier said. “In the Walker match (a 10-0 win March 12), we had nine different players score 10 goals. That’s been a huge improvement to Lovett soccer, having multiple players who can put the ball in the back of the net.”
Senior midfielder/forward Alex Anne Matthews, a University of the South signee, led the team with four goals as of last Friday, while Jackson is the leader in assists with three.
Senior goalkeeper Kathleen Connell provides a veteran presence, while juniors Rachael Wester and Kimberlin Rogers — both committed to Davidson — join fellow junior Annie Boydston and Jackson in the midfield.