Heading into Tuesday’s first round matchup against Rutland at Womack Field, no player on the Statesboro girls’ roster had ever experienced a victory in the state playoffs.
With that item checked off of the bucket list, it’s now just a matter of how far the Lady Blue Devils can go.
Statesboro gained the competitive edge early and controlled play throughout the game as it notched a 3-0 win to advance in the Class AAAA state tournament. Senior forward Tori Thompson put the Devils in front late in the first half before netting another early in the second half to help them pull away.
Sarah Brown capped the scoring, sliding a goal into the left side of the net in the final minute of play.
“It’s a great feeling to be moving on in the state playoffs,” SHS coach Brian Thomas said. “I thought we played a great game. It was big for us to take that lead before halftime. That gave us a lot of confidence going forward.”
Thompson put the Devils in front with a 12-yard strike just under 30 minutes into the game.
Awarded a free kick from 40 yards out, Statesboro’s Kristen Reichard placed a perfect lob pass just in front of the Rutland 18 yard box. Thompson gained control, dribbled in, then fought off a defender before firing past Hurricane goalkeeper Sarah Hulett into the right side of the net.
Rutland’s offense was able to threaten early in the second half, but Thompson took advantage of the Hurricanes pressing upfield.
With 28 minutes to play, Thompson got behind the defense and raced downfield. She was tripped up and drew a free kick 25 yards from the goal, then sent the ensuing free kick off the right post and into the net.
“Tori played really well, like she always does for us,” Thomas said. “Rutland came out strong in the second half, but getting that second goal kind of slowed them down.”
While the Blue Devil offense applied constant pressure, the defense — as usual — was rock solid. Statesboro surrendered just one corner kick on the evening and Destinee Lanier only had to make five saves en route to the team’s ninth shutout of the season.
Statesboro was able to overcome some injuries on the back line and kept the Hurricanes’ attack at bay.
“Destinee had another great night,” Thomas said. “There were a couple of times where (Rutland) had a chance to make it a one-goal game, but Destinee stepped up. That really took the pressure off late in the game.”
The Blue Devils now advance to the second round where they will either travel to Locust Grove or host Worth County on May 7.
Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9404.