Statesboro isn't headed to the state playoffs, but it ended the 2011 season on a high note as it notched a dominating 6-1 victory over South Effingham Thursday night at Womack Field.
Much the same as last week's 7-1 win over Southeast Bulloch, the Lady Blue Devils played the Lady Mustangs to a scoreless draw in the first half, only to erupt on offense over the final 40 minutes of play.
“It was nice to end with a win,” said Statesboro coach Brian Thomas. “We've come a long way this season and I think that we have shown a lot of improvement. This team has worked hard and definitely deserved to go out with a couple of wins.”
The Devils won the possession battle throughout the first half and forced South Effingham to concentrate almost exclusively on defense, but couldn't break through for a goal.
Mustang goalkeeper Jacqueline Richtman saved a rifle shot off the foot of Sarah Brown in the 14th minute and Taylor Sarrat hit the crossbar with an attempt in the 28th minute.
Statesboro finally dented the scoreboard early in the second half with a perfect give-and-go. Sarrat passed to Tori Thompson, who one-touched another pass to Sarrat in the box for an easy goal.
In the 47th minute, Sarrat returned the favor as her cross found Thompson in front of a wide open net for a 2-0 lead.
The Mustangs fought back into the game when an SHS handball in its own box allowed Sabrina Downing to score on a penalty kick midway through the second half, but Thompson regained the Devils' two-goal advantage just three minutes later as she raced around a defender and found the left side of the net.
Brown added to the lead in the 66th minute with a goal from 15 yards out, and Thompson completed her hat trick in the 71st minute.
With just two minutes to play, Keyonna Moody capped the scoring for the Devils.
Thursday night's win was especially sweet for Statesboro in that it avenged a stinging loss.
Two weeks ago, the Devils traveled to Guyton, only to fall to the Mustangs in overtime. Statesboro won its first matchup with the Mustangs by a single goal earlier in the season and the Devils can now claim a win of the season series — and in convincing fashion.
“I was very impressed by how we responded in the second half,” said Thomas. “I think that our ability to adjust and improve over the course of a game shows a lot of growth and maturity in our girls. We knew that South Effingham would give us a tough game, so to play like that in the second half was very impressive.”
Now, with the season behind them, the Devils are already looking forward to 2012.
Just one member of this season's team will graduate and Sarrat and Thompson figure to form a very threatening scoring duo for opponents next year.
“I think we can be better next season,” said Thomas. “We've got some opportunities for our girls to keep playing and practicing in the offseason. If we keep working on it in between now and the beginning of next year, I think we can pick up where we're leaving off.”
Mike Anthony can be reached at (912) 489-9404.