For the first time this season, the Bulloch Academy boys soccer team has put two wins together and may be peaking during a crucial time in their season.
The 7-1 win over FPCA Tuesday evening was the Gators second region win of the season and now puts them in position to potentially lockdown the postseason. By beating FPCA, they have a shot to sure up the three-seed in the state playoffs due to Trinity-Dublin holding the tiebreaker over BA.
But a win over Robert Toombs Friday could potentially send the Gators to the playoffs for the sixth year on a row. Head coach Matthew Meeks attributes their consistency to the success to the seniors, and on senior night it couldn’t have been more appropriate.
“This senior group has really stepped up this season,” Meeks said. “They never looked at themselves as being better than everyone else because they stayed focused on the team aspect of things.
BA moves their record to above .500 and officially gets them out of the basement after a tough early season slate. Coming off a 7-0 win over Portal, the 7-1 win over FPCA could be a sign BA is peaking when it really counts at the end of the season. Meeks certainly seems to think so, and he knows how important it it for a team to be clicking come playoff time.
“We are playing so much better now compared to what we were doing at the beginning of the year,” Meeks said. “I think this team is really hungry to prove themselves after what happened in last years playoffs.”
Tuesday’s contest didn’t get out of hand until much later on in the night. Senior Candler Boyett and junior Ray Zeng both notched early goals to make it 2-0 within the first 20 minutes, then senior Grant Williams would dribble his way through the FPCA back line to put away a third goal in the 27th minute.
But even at 3-0, BA’s fun-and-gun style of offense has been prone to giving up cracks on counterattacks. As a matter of fact in the first game of the season BA went up 3-0 on Coastal Homeschool in the first 20 minutes only to draw the game 6-6.
However no such cracks exposed themselves Tuesday night, even after FPCA drew first blood in the second half with a deflection goal in the 47th minute. Contrary to their season opener, BA responded with four goals in the final 15 minutes to seal the blowout win.
Williams and Boyett would each notch a brace, while Sean O’Sullivan and Kevin An finished things off. The 7-1 win stands as the second largest scoring margin for BA this season behind their win over Portal Monday.
“We can’t always depend on our offense to get the job done for us,” Meeks said. “But it’s nice to see us basically shutout two opponents in a row outside the deflection. If our defense can follow what our offense does, we can finish out this season strong.”
BA may not be looking to host a playoff game anymore, but if they can keep rolling on their current form they can try to avenge their loss as a three-seed last season when they fell 4-1 to Gatewood in the first round.
It’s no secret this was going to be a rebuilding year for Bulloch Academy’s girls soccer team. With no seniors and half a roster composed of girls not even old enough to drive, it wasn’t out of this world to assume struggles would be abound for the Lady Gators.
Tuesday’s 7-0 loss to First Presbyterian Christian Academy was just another lump the girls have taken during their 2017 campaign. It was the sixth time the girls had been shutout and the third time it’s been by three or more goals.
For Meeks he knows what he has in terms of experience, it’s all just a matter of getting his girls to grow into their roles for future success down the road.
“I go into practice every day with the goal of getting them better day by day,” Meeks said. “There’s no pressure on them to win right away. I just want to see improvement on all the little things.”
It was apparent from the get-go FPCA was older, better developed physically and had played a much longer time together — something a team as young as BA simply can’t develop in the situation they’re in. Within the first four minutes the Lady Highlanders had notched two impressive goals: the first off a slicing through-ball between BA’s centerbacks for a goal slammed in the right upper-90 and the second a 30-yard chip over the outstretched arms of the keeper.
FPCA would score three more goals in the first half even after it appeared BA had settled their defense during the 18 minutes between goals number two and three. BA was only able to muster one shot the entire first half, which was well wide left of the FPCA goal.
In the second half BA got three more shots off, but all were straight at the keeper — never legitimately threatening for a score. FPCA would tack on two more goals to eventually finish things off, but at that rate the game was well out of reach.
It would have been unreasonable to think such a young BA team would be able to hang with the 8-0 Lady Highlanders, but Meeks knows these kinds of games will happen to a young squad. All he can do is assure his girls there will be better days down the road when they eventually will be upperclassmen like FPCA.
“I hope that these girls can one day grow into what our senior boys are,” Meeks said. “It’s no guarantee, but so far I think they all have the potential to get there.”
The game also had some big region and playoff stakes for the Lady Gators (1-7-0, 0-6). Now 0-5 in region play, they’d have to beat Robert Toombs Friday and FPCA in Hinesville on April 25. Considering they’ve already lost to FPCA, the chances of BA making the playoffs for the sixth straight season are in serious jeopardy.
But as Meeks says, as nice as it would be to keep their playoff streak alive — this season was more about development and rebuilding than anything else. All he can ask for is for his girls to play hard and continue to grow in their game.
“In the back of your head you tell yourself you want to fight for fourth place,” Meeks said. “Mentally that’s the girls’ focus and it should be. I don’t ever want them playing like they don’t have a chance.”