Au driven to go out on winning note

Photo: Craig Cappy. North Gwinnett's Danielle Au, front, battles with Chapel Hill's Cindy Winks during the Class AAAAA state quarterfinals last Saturday.

Photo: Craig Cappy. North Gwinnett's Danielle Au, front, battles with Chapel Hill's Cindy Winks during the Class AAAAA state quarterfinals last Saturday.

Danielle Au has had a very decorated soccer career.

The North Gwinnett senior holds scoring records and earned player of the year honors, but there's one accomplishment missing from Au's resume.

A state championship.

"I feel like this year has already been successful and my past years have been successful, but if we could pull out a win and beat the No. 1 and No. 2 teams (and win a state title), that would be awesome," Au said.

Au can take another step toward the elusive state championship today when the No. 3-ranked Bulldogs play host to No. 1 Walton in the semifinals of the Class AAAAA state playoffs.

North Gwinnett is the two-time defending Region 7-AAAAA champions, but the Bulldogs have never made it past the third round of the playoffs until this year.

"If they can win a state championship and she can be a part of that, it would be very deserving," North Gwinnett coach Mark Karen said. "It would be very fitting for her."

Five months ago, Au didn't know how much of her senior season she would get to play. During a club soccer game in January, she tore her right shoulder and had to have surgery. That forced her to miss the first part of the season, but she made an earlier than expected comeback in late March.

"It was hard because some of your most memorable moments are your senior year. I was kind of nervous I wouldn't play any games and it's my senior year," said Au, the only senior on North's team. "I don't even want to end it right now. I feel like I haven't played a lot of games. I want to see if I can pull out two wins for my senior year."

Over the last four seasons, North Gwinnett has put together a 58-18 record with Au's help. She holds the Gwinnett County record for goals scored in a game with seven along with Norcross' Danielle Petro. Au also holds school records for goals scored in a season (39) and in a career (96), numbers that rank among the top five in Gwinnett County history. She also has 32 career assists.

"That's cool, too, but I would rather win a state championship," Au said.

The South Carolina commitment has been regarded as one of the county's top players for the last four years. She was named the Daily Post's Player of the Year in 2008 and has been a two-time selection to the NSCAA All-American South team.

"I've always looked forward to North Gwinnett. She's always been the person in my mind to look after," Collins Hill goalkeeper Sage DoVale said. "She's gotten a couple past me. I've stopped a few of hers, but she's a great player."

Au has 17 goals and four assists in 11 games this season and helped North to its second 7-AAAAA title with a three-goal performance against Northview.

It's just one of the many multi-goal games in Au's career. But she's put together so many outstanding individual performances that it's hard to pinpoint just one.

The Bulldogs' second-round playoff win over Grayson is a good start, though. Au had to leave the game in the final eight minutes with a severe calf injury. She missed the overtime period as she iced her leg and came back during the penalty kicks. She made two PKs to put North in the quarterfinals of the state playoffs.

"I've always told the team that big players do big things in big games and she epitomizes that," Karen said.