Few boys soccer programs in Georgia have been as successful for as long as Greater Atlanta Christian.
The Spartans have made 17 straight playoff appearances, won the state title three times and were runner-up three more times. They’ve made it to the Final Four nine times, including four of the last five years.
Yet this is the first time GAC (18-0) has finished the regular season undefeated.
And it’s those ever so rare losses that most molded this team.
The Spartans are highly motivated to bring home a championship — especially after losing on penalty kicks in last year’s semifinals.
“We know we have to finish it,” head coach Thom Jacquet said. “They’re good enough to know there are no moral victories. We don’t want to be second best.”
GAC, ranked No. 3 in the nation and No. 1 in the state, completed its perfect regular season Tuesday with a 5-1 win over Westminster.
“There’s not an Achilles,” Jacquet said of the team. “We’ve played some really tough games against some really good teams. And 18-0 is great, but if we don’t win it, it’s not going to be nearly as important.”
The Spartans have been in a few tight battles — notably a 2-1 chess match with rival Wesleyan on March 11 and a 3-2 victory over St. Pius on March 28 — but have also steamrolled a number of teams. They are outscoring their opponents 86-12 and have eight shutouts this season. No team has scored more than two goals against them.
Senior goalkeeper Marius Heislitz is a big reason why.
With him in net, the Spartans know one or two goals is likely going to be enough to win. Not that they have trouble scoring.
Senior Ryan Marcano leads the team with more than 20 goals and junior Will Hamryka is not far off that pace. But it’s a balanced attack. Right back Michael Williams and left back Richard Hamryka, both sophomores, are excellent two-way players.
“They’re great defenders and can also go forward,” Jacquet said.
Senior Nash Wagnon is crafty and efficient in the middle.
“He’s got great vision and he’s hard to get the ball from,” Jacquet said.
George Winfrey captains a defense, which is exceptional at moving the ball out of the zone in transition, and Jacquet called Davis Bryan undefendable.
“It’s that 20-yard pass up to the next level,” Jacquet said. “They turn and get it to the attack.”
It’s also their depth that makes the Spartans so deadly.
“Probably instead of 11 starters, we have 13 or 14,” Jacquet said. “So we can make moves without hurting the team. And the motivation — we’re ready to win.”
GAC begins its quest in earnest against Union County next Thursday in the first round of state.