Apr. 29—While a vast majority of the Glynn Academy girls soccer team have played the sport together since adolescence, the Terrors’ title chances may come down to a player in her first full season on the pitch.
Previously a basketball and volleyball player at Glynn, Lilly Wood has become a lynchpin of the soccer program as the starting keeper of a state championship contender — a journey that was more than two years in the making.
Wood initially explored playing soccer her freshman year at GA, and her brand of athleticism and fearlessness intrigued head coach Thomas Lemmon. However, the weekend before team tryouts, Wood tore her ACL, ending her season before it got a chance to begin.
The Terrors rolled with Courtlyn Roddini in goal, and Wood began the rehab process.
A year later, Wood played a part in the Glynn Academy girls basketball team’s run to the state championship game, keeping her from soccer through early March. She finally stepped in the goal March 10, helping to pitch an 8-0 shutout of Bradwell Institute, and two days later, competition was canceled indefinitely due to the looming COVID-19 pandemic.
“I just feel like the universe didn’t want me to play for a little while,” Wood said.
She wouldn’t give up though. Wood continued honing her skills with Glynn assistant Taylor Ritz, and she finally assumed the full-time starting role entering her junior season to great success.
Wood has only allowed 11 goals over 18 games for a Terrors team that is 17-0-1 and ranked No. 15 in the country by MaxPreps. With Wood in goal, Glynn Academy has pitched 13 shutouts, including a 5-0 victory over Evans in the first round of the state playoffs last week.
“(She has) great hand-eye coordination watching saves,” Lemmon said of his keeper. “She’s made some big 1-on-1 saves. A big one that stands out, Richmond Hill, in the first minute, they came down, we lost control of the ball point blank, and she just got in and nabbed it. Took it from them, which was huge momentum for us in that game.
“She’s an athlete, awesome, great attitude. She wants to learn the game, and enjoys being around the girls.”
Incidentally, it was in Glynn Academy’s first meeting against Richmond Hill that Wood completely took over the reigns as the team’s keeper.
The Terrors had experienced great success with Roddini in the goal, going 26-1-2 over the previous two seasons with the only loss coming against eventual champion Dacula in the quarterfinal round of the 2019 state playoffs.
Going into a matchup against the top contender for Glynn’s crown in Region 2-6A, Lemmon considered turning to Roddini once more until the players stepped in and insisted they roll with Wood.
“We were going back and forth that first Richmond Hill game, maybe putting Court in, but the seniors stepped in and they said, ‘No, Coach. We want Lilly. We’ve got full confidence and trust in her, and we want her to be our goalie,'” said Lemmon. “And I said, ‘Absolutely. She’s the one we’re going to ride the whole way.'”
Glynn won the match 4-3, and Wood would only allow one more score versus region opponents over the final seven contests, shutting out Richmond Hill in the rematch 25 days later.
Wood has grown exponentially in her first full season, though her inexperience has still led to slip ups here and there.
As a keeper on a dominant team, there are matches where Wood spends most of her time watching the Terrors knock in goal after goal on the opposite end of the field, which can make it difficult to remain alert to a potential scoring threat.
One such example occurred in Glynn’s region finale against Effingham County. Trailing 8-0 with time winding down in the first half, Effingham suddenly found itself with a breakaway and cashed in on its first clean scoring opportunity of the contest to get on the board.
Wood denied another shot attempt a minute later, and after the match, Lemmon spoke to her about the importance of remaining zoned in no matter the score. That shouldn’t be much of an issue in the playoffs though.
Matches will only get tighter from here on out, and a single goal will likely be the difference in a win or loss at some point over the course of the Terrors’ postseason run.
That will be a position that Wood has not found herself in often during her soccer career, but under Lemmon, Glynn has been the poster child of the “practice how you play” mantra. She’s confident the Terrors have prepared her well for this moment.
“I think it’s just all about mentality and practices and stuff — just wanting to be ready at all times,” Wood said. “During some of those games, it was easy for me to kind of be like, ‘OK, I can just hang out back here,’ but I think part of it is just paying attention in those games even when I wasn’t doing anything, and then in practice, watching how everyone plays and getting to actually have some hands-on stuff.
“I think that was the biggest part, just practices.”
Now, Wood finds herself a part of a team with serious state championship aspirations for the second consecutive year in an entirely different sport.
She’s seen what the inner workings of a title contender looks like, and she seems a lot of similarities in the two teams.
“There’s a lot to take from it,” Wood said of her hoops experience. “Our seniors in basketball the year we went to state, they were a lot like these seniors, just very focused and committed. They had been playing for a long time.
“In basketball, we were a very close team as well, so I think just looking back, I can see the comparisons between the two teams — how just strong-willed they are in getting to where they want to go, all the coaches and the players on the same level.”
Glynn Academy will look to take another step closer to accomplishing it’s ultimate goal today when the girls host North Atlanta in the second round of the state playoffs. Game time is set for 4:30 p.m.