BROOKLET — After one upset road victory in the Georgia High School Association state soccer playoffs, the Southeast Bulloch girls are aiming for another.
The Lady Yellow Jackets notched a 4-3 road win over Region 1-AA No. 2 seed Berrien Friday afternoon and will face their biggest test of the season today as they take on No. 1 seed Pike County in the second round of the state tournament at 5 p.m.
“It’s definitely a big challenge for us,” said SEB coach Kristen Barnhill. “But we’re up to it. I think we proved a lot to other people and to ourselves by beating Berrien last week. Now, we just have to go out and keep playing well.”
Southeast Bulloch was convincing — if not momentarily concerned — in its opening round win.
The Jackets showed their talent in racing out to a 4-1 lead over higher-seeded Berrien, but surrendered two late goals to make things interesting.
SEB held on for the win and took a hard lesson in postseason success along with the victory.
“We played great, like the better team for about 60 minutes,” said Barnhill. “It got a little tense late, but we were able to hold (Berrien) off. It’s a good lesson. To win in the playoffs, you need to play a full 80 minutes of good soccer.”
One of the biggest obstacles standing in the way of any lower seeded team in the GHSA playoffs is the issue of travel.
After last week’s win at Berrien, today will be SEB’s second consecutive long road trip, but the Jackets have a lot of confidence in their ability to endure the struggles of long bus rides.
“I think that region play set us up for this,” said Barnhill. “We had to travel to Laney, Bleckley County and Dublin. All of those are over two-hour bus rides. We know what it takes to travel a long way and still be ready to play when we step on the field.”
As for tactics and strategies, the Jackets have shown the ability to adjust and adapt, but also have enough confidence to rely on the talent that has earned them a spot as one of the final 16 teams competing in the Class AA playoffs.
Hoping for an increase in offense, SEB shifted senior Hannah Denmark from her normal defensive slot into an offensive role against Berrien. The move paid off as the Jackets found the back of the net four times, but Berrien’s late rally has put things into perspective for the Jackets entering tonight’s game.
“We adjusted well and got what we wanted out of it,” said Barnhill of the change in attack. “We also saw that we had to hang on late. We probably won’t be too fancy today. We’ve spent the last few days enjoying the first round win, but preparing for today.
“Getting one win in the playoffs is good, but if we play our best game, there’s no reason not to believe that we can’t keep advancing.”
Mike Anthony can be reached at (912) 489-9404.