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Lady Gators look to slow the pace in state playoffs

It will be big play versus ball control today when the Bulloch Academy girls’ soccer team hosts Arlington Christian in the opening round of the Georgia Independent School Association (GISA) Class AA playoffs.

Bulloch (7-5-1) beat First Presbyterian of Hinesville 4-1 Wednesday to finish in second place in Region 2-AA. Sophomore Haley Burke scored two goals while junior Kailey Hinton and sophomore Emily Morgan added one each.

With the victory, head coach Will Avra and his Lady Gators won the right to host the first round of postseason at Gator Alley. The Bulloch girls will take on the Arlington Christian  Lady Eagles today at 4:30 p.m.
          “I’m glad we get to stay home,” he said. “We have a good routine down for home games. It’s always better to play on your home field. We also don’t have to ride a bus for two or three hours.”

          As per GISA guidelines, admission is $6 for adults and $3 for students (kindergarten through 12th grade). BA athletic passes are not valid for playoff games. The only passes which will be accepted are the GISA coaches’ passes (coach and spouse), GAOA officials’ passes and media passes.

Avra hopes his Lady Gators will stage a repeat performance of last year’s wing clipping.

In 2009, Bulloch hosted another set of Lady Eagles (Sherwood Christian Academy) and took a historic 2-1 victory. It was the first-ever playoff victory and winning season for the Lady Gators since the inception of the program in 1997. 

This year’s set of Lady Eagles are from Fairburn and are the third seed from Region 4-AA. There is one common opponent, LaGrange Academy. Arlington split the home-and-away series while the Lady Gators claimed a 2-0 victory.

“Arlington will be fast and physical,” said Avra. “They don’t possess the ball a lot. They will try to beat you with their speed. They are more of a big-play team.”

It will be essential for Bulloch to play superior defense and Avra has just the girls for the job.

“Maddie Marsh, Kaylee Sheppard and Heaven Hinton are great on defense,” he said. “We are solid defensively than we’ve ever been, thanks to those three.”

Marsh, a freshman, is the stopper while Sheppard, a junior, is the sweeper and Hinton, a senior, is the keeper.

 Midfielders Kaitlin Ellis, a senior, and Allison Anderson, a freshman, are also defensive warriors.

“They are dominant in the middle,” said Avra. “They hold it down and win balls.”

Burke, Morgan and Kailey Hinton are Bulloch’s scorers.

“They are not selfish,” he said. “They don’t care who scores as long as it happens.”

The Lady Gators have good team chemistry which makes for a balanced squad.

“Everyone contributes,” said Avra. “They aren’t looking around, waiting for one person to do it all. We’ve tried to advance one round further each year. Last year we went to the Elite Eight. This year, we’re looking for the Final Four.”