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GAC girls one win away from first title

Staff Photo: Jason Braverman<br> GAC's Mollie Arrendale, left, and Westminster's Sam Battey (19) get tangled up during the first half of Tuesday's Class AA semifinal game.

Staff Photo: Jason Braverman
GAC's Mollie Arrendale, left, and Westminster's Sam Battey (19) get tangled up during the first half of Tuesday's Class AA semifinal game.

As enjoyable as breaking the Final Four curse was, it wasn't the ultimate goal for the Greater Atlanta Christian girls soccer team.

The Spartans will try to complete that mission tonight, when they can become GAC's first-ever state champion in the sport with a road win over powerful Blessed Trinity in the Class AA finals.

"It would mean a ton (to win)," GAC girls coach Troy Bendickson said. "This is my ninth year and we've had some great teams, some great seasons. But we always fell short of that ultimate goal. ... The last two or three years we knew (winning state) was a realistic goal, so to have that chance and not close the deal is tough."

Tonight, second-ranked GAC can close with the ideal finish and exact a little revenge along the way. No. 1 Blessed Trinity (18-2-1) beat the Spartans 2-1 on March 29 after GAC went up 1-0 in overtime. The Titans tied the score in the second overtime and won on penalty kicks.

It was similar to GAC's other loss this season, a PK loss to Westminster that the Spartans (16-2-2) avenged in the semifinals earlier this week. That victory took the program one level deeper after Final Four losses in both 2009 and 2010.

"It's rare to get that opportunity (to avenge the losses)," Bendickson said. "We only lost two (games) this season and they were tough losses, both on penalty kicks."

Bendickson hopes his team won't need PKs this time around to finish off what has been a great playoff run. Outside of the two PK losses, GAC has dominated in setting school single-season records for most goals scored with 119 (old mark was 101 in 2009) and fewest goals allowed with 10 (old mark was 25 in 2009).

Those records are nice, but the Spartans won't be happy until they get a championship. Their coach hopes to have that trophy as a fitting ending for a large senior class of Anna Douglas, Kelsey Pelletier, Chelsea Gandy-Cromer, McKenzie Nelson, Lauren Bryan, Allie Blinder, Alie Peterson and Anna Arnau.

"They were the biggest class we've had coming in (as freshmen) and the biggest we've had coming out (as seniors)," Bendickson said. "Eight of them came in and eight came out. They all stayed four years. So (a title) would be a great way for them to finish."