Spartans stay focused in rout of Union Co.

Photo by Brandon Brigman

Photo by Brandon Brigman

NORCROSS -- While Greater Atlanta Christian awaits potential rematches with Blessed Trinity and Westminster, the Spartans will have to be satisfied with opponents who may not push them as much.

On Wednesday, GAC dispatched Union County 10-0 in the first round of the Class AA playoffs as it worked to maintain its regular-season momentum. Chelsea Gandy-Cromer and Rachel Garcia each scored a hat trick as the game ended via mercy rule with 31:22 remaining.

"We're where we need to be," GAC coach Troy Bendickson said. "We don't know much about our next few opponents, we don't know what they're going to be like. So we have to prepare our game, not to play anybody (specifically)."

GAC advances to play the winner of RiverRidge-Callaway on Tuesday.

The Panthers, despite a 13-2-1 record entering the playoffs, didn't stand much of a chance. Garcia tallied her three goals before 10 minutes had ticked off the clock. And GAC (13-2-2) outshot Union 27-1 as Panther keeper Allie Kight turned in a performance that was far better than the score indicated.

Kelsey Pelletier, Jamie Campbell, Lauren Bryan and Mollie Arrendale also scored for GAC, which led 6-0 at halftime. Bendickson removed most of his starters following Gandy-Cromer's first goal with 19:54 remaining in the first half.

"We wanted to move the ball, let the ball do the work, and score pretty goals," Bendickson said. "I think we accomplished that."

Bendickson said he told the players to resist the temptation to look ahead to potential meetings with Blessed Trinity or Westminster, the team's only losses, both after regulation.

"Let the coaching staff do that," he said. "But they all do in their spare time, but we try not to."

Gandy-Cromer said it's difficult to not look ahead because when the players don't recognize an opponent, they immediately discount it.

"We have to stay focused on that, because if we don't, we could be the team that's not there," she said.

The program will lean on its eight seniors, the largest class in recent memory, to finish off memorable careers and reach high expectations. And with just two juniors, they know this depth of experience won't be around long.

"Each player on the team is looking forward to the state championship, or even the semifinals, playing the region we know, between BT and Westminster," Gandy-Cromer said. "Since we are kind of a young team besides the eight seniors, we are really close. We're all best friends on the field and off the field, so we just want to carry that chemistry on the field."