Jefferson title game run was evident ‘from the start’ [VIDEO]
“From the Start” — that was the mantra the Jefferson Lady Dragons adopted coming into the 2022 season. After what the team deemed a disappointing Sweet 16 exit in 2021, the seniors from that team passed on the motto for this year’s team to take on.
“Last season we ended the season sooner than we wanted to…and those that were graduating said ‘you know coach, had we done these certain things from the start, we think we might have gotten a little further,'” says coach Molly McCarty, who has guided the program to now 72 wins since her first season in 2017. “It was easy to do everything from the start. We did a lot of thing together at the beginning of the season, really focused on our fitness…and I feel like the fitness is truly what got us to the end.”
The Lady Dragons went 14-4-1 overall in 2022, tying the program win record set first in 2019. That 2019 team, as well as the 2017 edition, made the Final 4 before seeing their season end. This state title game appearance, a 1-0 overtime loss to Marist, was nothing short of sensational.
“It’s definitely exciting,” says senior leader and Georgia State University signee Abbey Eison, who finished her career with a school record 33 goals. “Finishing off with that and being able to say we are runner-up is super exciting.”
The offense was top-notch, as the Lady Dragons outpaced their opposition 108-15. Playing in an offense capable of such an output makes it easier for Eison and junior Ella Parker (21 Goals, school record 16 assists).
“Getting to play up top with Abbey was really fun, because we were like the dynamic duo this year” adds Parker, a East Tennessee State University commit. “I come from playing defense in club, so coming into high school and getting to play on the other side of the ball is really exciting.”
The Lady Dragons’ belief in themselves and focusing on the task at hand was coupled with a close bond that guided the ship.
“Our mountain trip at the beginning of the season [definitely brought us together],” says senior Carter Drake, who polished off her career with five goals and 14 assists and has signed with Georgia College & State University. “And then after the North Oconee game [a tough loss], we all kind of came together more, and got closer and I think that’s what really got us to the state championship.”
For Jefferson, they knew they had something special brewing following that mid-season loss to North Oconee. What followed was a stretch of games without being beaten until the title game.
“When we did our scheduling for this year, we wanted to make sure we had games from the start of the season that were really going to test us and show us our weaknesses,” adds McCarty. “We had certain games (Mill Creek, Loganville, etc) throughout the season that tested us. When we played [7A opponent] Peachtree Ridge, we had opportunities to win the game. I think after that, we started realizing ‘we have something really good right now, and this is what’s going to happen if we do these certain things.”
After the loss to North Oconee, McCarty and the team knew what they had to do the rest of the way, and they did it.
The future remains bright for a team that truly left it all on the field and has no regrets. Parker, along with freshman phenom keeper Ella Sellers, will anchor the team next season with the sights set as high as ever.