Filled with youth, the bulk of the Dacula girls soccer team knows mostly success. Fourteen varsity players are freshmen or sophomores who have won the majority of their high school matches.
A few Falcons, however, remember the tough times.
There are only a few of them left -- the roster features just five seniors, and one is a transfer --from a 2009 team that struggled mightily. They were freshmen then for a team that went 2-13-1 and was shut out 12 times.
"We've got some solid seniors who have been in the program when it was about as bad as it could get," Dacula girls head coach Jason Guzzardo said. "For them to experience the success we've had lately has been great."
Guzzardo became head coach in 2010 and took the program to the state playoffs with a 7-10 record. Dacula improved to 12-6 last year with another state playoff trip. Both seasons ended with first-round losses, but the hopes are higher this year, and rightfully so.
The Falcons enter tonight's showdown at Brookwood with an 11-2-1 record, with nine wins in their last 10 matches. The lone loss was to region frontrunner Parkview, but they also have some quality wins, including a 1-0 win over rival and seventh-ranked Mill Creek last month.
"They have some pretty high goals this year," said Guzzardo, a Berkmar grad. "A lot of them play at a very high club level. ... They've been excited with the success. They like the idea of playing together and they know they play better if they play together. And I think they're tired of losing in the first round (at state)."
The breakthrough season is particularly enjoyable for seniors like Amanda Kent, Grace Boatright, Ruva Chimedza and Michelle Zedonek. Kent and Boatright are both key defenders, Chimedza (a Southern Wesleyan signee) has played all over the field during her career and Zedonek is a longtime member of the program.
Fellow senior Magaly Gutierrez, a transfer from Mountain View, also is part of that veteran crew. The Georgia Gwinnett College commitment has provided a major boost at goalkeeper.
"(Gutierrez) has been superb," Guzzardo said. "She's come up big in quite a few situations. Game in and game out, she makes our defense a lot more confident."
The seniors are backed up by talented young players, led by a loaded 12-player sophomore class that includes playmakers Valeria Bermeo and Katie McAdams as attacking midfielders. Junior captain Kristin Kelly (currently out with mononucleosis) also has been a key player.
The Falcons have another big test tonight against Brookwood. Both teams are 4-1 in the region, so the winner takes over second place in Region 8-AAAAA behind Parkview and gets the inside track on a home playoff game in the first round of state.
"We've got some good teams left to play," Guzzardo said. "Hopefully we can finish off the season as well as we've started it."