South Georgia Tormenta FC entered its season finale knowing that it had already been mathmetically eliminated from playoff contention, but ended with a bang anyways.
Tormenta capped off its second winning season in as many years of existence, notching an authoritative 5-0 victory over the Tri-Cities Otters Saturday evening at Erk Russell Park.
South Georgia (7-3-4) took the lead over Tri-Cities (3-9-2) when Reed Norton slotted in a goal in the 29th minute of play. Tormenta took its 1-0 advantage into halftime before scoring four more in a second half that served as a victory lap for another successful season.
“Overall, I’m very happy and proud of our team,” Tormenta coach John Miglarese said. “You definitely can’t say much bac about a 5-0 win. Obviously, we would have liked to get into the playoffs, but this was another solid step forward for this organization.
“Over the last two years, Tormenta has grown quickly into a first-class club. Some of this year’s guys will advance forward in their careers, and that’s great. Others we’ll love to have back. This was a good season and now we move forward to the next.”
With a possible move to a professional league in the coming years being floated around, the lack of a playoff berth seems like a minor hiccup. But with Statesboro set to host the Eastern Conference playoffs next week — and with Tormenta playing as well as any team in the country over the last month — there is still a bit of remorse.
“Getting to the playoffs would have been great,” Norton said. “But I don’t think we were down. We really wanted to win this last one. Late in the game, everything really came together.”
Jamie Merriam gave Tormenta some breathing room, finding the net in the 51st minute to double the lead. About 10 minutes later, Merriam struck again as he logged his 10th goal of the season.
Tormenta’s substitutions got in on the fun late as both Max Hassen stab and Sam Lofts scored to add to the runaway victory.
“The first two games (against Tri-Cities) were both 1-0 and the goals came late,” Norton said. “Getting the first goal early helped, but the second goal really put us over the top. From there, everything clicked and guys were making the most of all our chances.”
The constant offense gave Tormenta’s defense an easy night, but the back line was just as much to credit for a solid season as the guys finding the net. Saturday’s victory was the sixth in seven starts for South Georgia goalkeeper Matt Rosenberg. Of those six wins, Rosenberg also notched five clean sheets.
“Credit has to go to the back line and Matt,” Merriam said. “They have taken care of everyting lately. That makes our jobs easier when we know that other teams aren’t going to score.”
South Georgia ends the season in fourth place in the 11-team South Atlatnic Division. The top two teams from the division — along with the champions from the Northeast and Atlantic Divisions — will contend for the Eastern Conference championship next weekend in Statesboro.
Tormenta is done for 2017, but its record and place in the division standings will likely earn it a spot in the nationwide U.S. Open Cup — which spans all levels of professional and semi-pro soccer in the country — next season.