Derrick Mahone/Douglas County Sentinel Sara Schultz will help lead the Alexander Cougars into a key Region 5-AAAAAA matchup against Northgate on Thursday.

Alexander’s girls soccer team will likely get its toughest region test of the season when they visit Northgate on Thursday.

Heading into Tuesday night’s action, Northgate, like Alexander, was undefeated in Region 5-AAAAAA. Thus, many are looking at tomorrow’s meeting as a region championship game.

“It’s really probably going to come down to us and Northgate,” Alexander coach Justin Fitzgerald said. “I don’t think there’s any question about that. That Thursday matchup is going to be critical.”

If Alexander beats Northgate, it will have to do so without one of its top players. Macey Hodge will be out of town, and unable to play, creating a void other players will have to step up and fill.

 “Macey is one of the captains and the leading scorer,” Fitzgerald said. “Those will be some hard shoes to fill, but we’re going to have to try to make it work without her.”

Before facing Tri-Cities on Tuesday, Alexander had played just two games in two weeks, and they won both of those contests by the mercy rule. In short, Alexander has been spending a lot more time on the practice field as oppose to being in game action.

“It’s provided us an opportunity to get some things worked out in training and with the film,” Fitzgerald said. “We’ve had some time to look at some film from early in the season. We had some different type of teams from outside of our region early. We have such a young team; it allows us to work out some of the issues.”

One area which Alexander has improved over the course of the season is its defense. Fitzgerald credits the practice time for helping his squad excel in that part of the game.

“I think that’s where we spent most of the time in the training,” he said in regards to the defense. “We are actually fortunate enough to have two great keepers (Marianna Neau and Jordan Maxwell), and then our true leader in the back is really Madison Demkowski.

“She’s also one of the captains and clearly the leader of that defense back there. We just have some young talent back there. Kind of early on in the season, they made a few freshman mistakes, but have worked on kind of cleaning some of those things up.”

Neau is a freshman, while Maxwell and Demkowski are sophomores. Also, freshman Valeria Valdes teams with Demkowski as a center back.

Alexander had a streak of close to 300 minutes of shutout soccer headed in to the match with Tri-Cities.

“They [take] pride in that,” Fitzgerald said. “Honestly, I think that’s where a lot of our goals come from. It’s just how really good our defense’s been playing creates a lot of chances for us.”

Fitzgerald also extends the credit to midfielders Katie Gamel and Willow Martin.

“They basically keep things locked down for us,” he said.

An indication of how well Alexander has been playing in recent weeks is Paulding County’s 4-1 victory over South Paulding on Monday. Paulding County is a top-10 team in Class AAAAA, but was unable to defeat them in the manner in which Alexander did (10-0).

“Our girls handled them pretty easily,” Fitzgerald said of South Paulding. “I don’t want to discredit what they’re doing, making it look easy. The girls have played well.”

No matter the outcome with Northgate on tomorrow, Fitzgerald is preparing his team to make a run in the state playoffs. The Cougars have mid-April contest against Marietta, Newnan and East Coweta.

“As we come into the stretch run here, we get ready for state playoffs, we’ll have some out of region games that will be good games for us coming up towards the end,” he said.

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