The Carrollton High School boys' soccer team has had nearly 12 months to reflect on coming up just shy of reaching the Class AAAAA state championship game in 2017.
And the Trojans are using that near-miss as motivation moving forward into the 2018 postseason, which kicks off today at 7 p.m. when the Region 7-AAAAA champions serve host to fourth-seeded Flowery Branch at Grisham Stadium to begin a new quest for that elusive state crown.
"They're hungry right now. Last year we were really close to going to a state championship game. But we've got to take every game one step at a time and really focus on this one and make sure we play at our best," Carrollton head coach Scott New said.
The top-seeded Trojans (15-3) took care of business through a perfect region run to the league title and once again tested themselves early and often in the non-region portion of play to prepare for this stage of the season.
But the Falcons (8-7-3) also played an imposing non-region slate in addition to forging through a rigorous Region 8 schedule that featured the likes of No. 4 Johnson, Gainesville and No. 7 Clarke Central, making them a formidable four seed.
"They're a good team. They're in a good region. They took the No. 1 team in that region and played them very well. They've lost some close games, but they've been in every game they've played," New said. "They play good soccer up in that Gainesville region."
New said when the action starts tonight, it's imperative that his players set the tone and dictate the flow of the match from start to finish.
"We've got to play at our tempo and control the pace of the game," New said. "We need to make sure we come out fast and we come out strong and that we're able to get in that final attacking third and make sure we make things happen and we finish. We've got to control the middle of the field and defensively make sure we don't give up anything."
The Trojans have a handful of freshmen that will be new to the postseason environment, which could result in nerves factoring in a little, but the majority of the guys are multi-year starters that have been there, done that and are focused on taking the next step up the playoff hierarchy this spring.
"We've got good depth again this year, we've got 11 seniors that have done a great job. Some of them have been starters since they were in ninth grade," New said. "So they've been through this a lot and we're going to ask them to help lead us. We also have a good junior class. These guys have some playoff experience."