In 2010, a young group emerged to give Statesboro’s girls soccer team a big step forward. Last season, region realignment brought some dominating new teams into the Lady Blue Devils’ region, and a year after going 10-5 and advancing to the state playoffs, the Devils slipped to 5-10.
This season, more than half of the starters return and Statesboro heads into the season another year stronger and wiser.
“What I like about our girls is the competitiveness,” SHS coach Brian Thomas said. “We’ve got a lot of girls that don’t like losing. Last season left a sour taste in their mouths and I think the hard work I’ve seen them put in leading up to this season goes to show that they are determined to do better this year.”
With so much talent packing its way into the Devils’ half of Region 2-AAAA, Thomas is certain about what his team needs to do to climb back up the standings. All three of Statesboro’s seniors — Taylor Sarrat, Makayla Patterson and Lauren Campbell — play on the defensive side of the ball and will need to be at their best in their final season.
“Last season, you could see the progress,” Thomas said. “The first time we played (region champion) Greenbrier, we spent all of our time chasing the ball around the field. The second time, we were able to stay on our marks and keep the ball when we had it. That’s what we need to see all this season.”
The Devils scrimmage Wayne County at 5 p.m. Friday at Womack Field, and Thomas indicated that defending and possessing the ball are things he’ll be looking for in his team’s final tune-up.
If the defensive side of the ball is sound, things bode well for the Devils as they have plenty of offense.
The most notable — and most prolific — of Statesboro’s scorers is Tori Thompson. The junior forward led the Devils in scoring last year and enters 2012 looking to add to her already impressive offensive numbers. Feeding the ball upfield will be fellow juniors Sarah Brown and Kristen Reichard, who will be tasked with patrolling the midfield.
“I think that we’ve gotten the ‘Wow’ factor out of the way,” Thomas said. “We’ve played all of these good teams and I think we’re ready to take a step forward and try to match them.
“We have a great group of returning starters with a lot of experience and some very talented freshmen coming up as well. We’re going to have athleticism, skill and depth, so we’ll see what we can do.”
With less than a week to go before its season opener, the Statesboro boys’ soccer team is chomping at the bit to get things started.
The Blue Devils are about to charge into their 2012 schedule with a new face leading the way. This season, Nick Thrower begins his tenure as the head coach of Statesboro, replacing Chad Prosser.
“It’s an exciting time for me and an exciting time for the team,” Thrower said. “I think that there are a lot of positives coming down the line. There’s a good amount of talent and potential that we can grow with.”
While this season marks Thrower’s first heading up the Blue Devils, he has plenty of experience to lean on. Thrower cut his coaching teeth as an assistant with Vidalia after a long playing career took him to Brewton-Parker College.
Three seniors head up the attack for Statesboro and any combination of Alan Rodriquez, Zack McClendon and Cody Francis will threaten opponents with their passing and scoring ability.
“We’ll definitely look to our guys up top for leadership,” Thrower said. “Overall, our plan is to just be a little more organized. If we can be in position and play in control, we can do some good things.”
Thrower will try to get his team over the hump as the Devils have spent the last few seasons on the brink of great success.
Two seasons ago, Statesboro earned a spot in the state playoffs, but was sent packing in the first round. Last season, the Devils were competitive, but fell short of the postseason.
Like their schoolmates on the girls’ squad, the Devils’ biggest hurdle to clear will be an imposing schedule.
“There’s no doubt that we have tough games on the schedule,” Thrower said. “But we’ve got the ability to compete. We just need to keep growing and take this season one game at a time.”
Mike Anthony can be reached at (912) 489-9404.