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Lady Blue Devils take on Locust Grove in Sweet 16

    The Statesboro girls’ soccer team was impressive in a 3-0 home victory over Rutland in last week’s first round game of the Class AAAA state playoffs. If the Lady Blue Devils want to keep their season going, they’ll now have to take their winning ways on the road.
    Statesboro (10-7) faces its toughest test of the season today at 5 p.m. as it heads to Locust Grove (16-1-1). The Lady Wildcats won their first 13 games of the season, easily rolled to the Region 4-AAAA championship, and hold the home-field advantage in the second round thanks to their No. 1 seed.
    Locust Grove will enter the game as the favorite, but that means little to a Statesboro squad that has been overachieving all season.
    “Going out in the first round of region stung last season,” SHS coach Brian Thomas said. “This year, we set a goal to get to state and make it into the Sweet Sixteen. We’re glad to have achieved that goal, but I know that our girls would love to be the first Statesboro team to make it to the third round of state.”
    If the Devils are going to make a run at the upset, they’ll at least have a bit more help.
    Statesboro has suffered injury after injury throughout the season and has two starters sidelined until next year. Asia Crawford missed the Devils’ first round game last week, but will return for today’s matchup.
    Crawford’s presence on the back line will be vital as the Devils try to deal with the Wildcats’ offensive onslaught.
    Locust Grove has scored an astounding 119 goals in its 18 games — an average of 6.6 goals per game — and has won nine of its games via mercy rule. Statesboro will counter with Destinee Lanier in net and a rock-solid defense that has recorded all but one of its victories by way of a shutout.
    “(Locust Grove) doesn’t have one big standout player, but they’ve got a lot of solid players that are tough to defend,” Thomas said. “We’re confident that our defense can do well against them. That doesn’t mean we’re going to just get off the bus and wait for them to attack. We’re ready to take the attack right back at them.”
    The Devils will counter Locust Groves’ offense with plenty of firepower of their own.
    Tori Thompson is Statesboro’s biggest scoring threat at the top of the formation, but Emmalyne Sisson and Sarah Brown are also able to get involved in creating scoring opportunities when they press up the field.
    Statesboro’s record might not be as gaudy as the Wildcats’ mark and the scores haven’t been as intimidating, but the Devils are confident that their balanced style of play can push them through.
    “There probably weren’t a lot of people outside of everyone on this team that thought we would come this far,” Thomas said. “When you consider the things we’ve had to get through, it’s pretty impressive that we’re here.
    “But that doesn’t mean we’re content. This is a game we think we can win. That’s exactly what we’re going to be thinking when we get off that bus.”
    The winner of today’s game will advance to the state quarterfinals scheduled for Friday. The winner will take on either Marist or Alexander.
    Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9404.