It's never a good sign when your goalkeeper is dripping with sweat at halftime and Statesboro keeper Samariah Smith got quite a workout throughout the Lady Blue Devils' state playoff game Tuesday against Whitewater.
Smith had 13 saves in the first half alone and kept Whitewater off the board until 1:20 left before intermission. But the Lady Wolverines tacked on four more goals in the second half and ended the Lady Devils' season with a 5-0 victory Tuesday evening at Womack Field.
The Blue Devils were trying to become the first Statesboro girl’s team to advance to the state quarterfinals in school history. The Wolverines proved to be a formidable foe, despite being the No. 3 seed out of Region 3-AAAAA.
“They put us under a lot of pressure throughout the game,” said Statesboro coach Brian Thomas. “We didn’t have any time on the ball. They defended well, and they took advantage of their chances, particularly in the second half.”
Whitewater controlled the ball about 80 percent of the game on their offensive side, and the rare times Statesboro got the ball on offense the Wolverines quickly got it back. One of the keys to the game was Whitewater being able to neutralize the Devils' biggest offensive weapon in senior Isabella Gutierrez.
“I felt like the refs let the girls play a lot rougher than what we have seen all year,” Thomas said. “Most of that was called here during the first part of the season. They double teamed her, they were very physical, and it was tough for her to get behind them because they always had a couple defenders between her and the goal.”
Statesboro had a chance to score early in the game. Gutierrez made a great pass to Haley Devendorf who took aim and fired just wide to the left.
Smith made 13 saves in the first half, and it looked like the Blue Devils would go to the half with no score, but with 1:20 left in the half Jolie Ryff played a great cross to Abbie Crane who tucked one past Smith and Whitewater took a 1-0 lead into halftime.
“We were just trying to get to halftime at 0-0 and make some adjustments,” Thomas said. “Samariah made so many outstanding saves, but once they scored we had to try another plan.”
In the second half the Blue Devil defense started to wear down, and the Wolverine offense started clicking. Less than 10 minutes into the second half Crane weaved her way through the Statesboro defense, and fired a shot to the back of the net from about 10 yards out.
Crane completed the hat trick 10 minutes later with a rocket from the top of the 18 that flew past a diving Smith for a 3-0 lead. Camille Messina added a goal at the 22:03 mark to make it 4-0. Madison Wright added the final goal of the game off a corner kick with just under 13 minutes left in the game.
“We haven’t been behind by two goals all season long,” Thomas said. “We tried an adjustment by putting another forward up top, but it didn’t help. Whenever we got the ball on offense they applied pressure and forced us into mistakes.”
Statesboro ends the season with a record of 13-3-3, and while Thomas was disappointed the Blue Devils season has come to a close he hopes the younger players will benefit from their state playoff experience.
“It does sting tonight, but I hope we can look back on this and see how much we accomplished this season,” Thomas said. “Hopefully the girls returning will work even harder in the off season to get better.”