By HORACE HOLLOMAN
The Southeast Bulloch girls soccer team will take on Jackson High School in the first round of the 1-AAA state playoffs with revenge on the mind.
Last year, the Red Devils of Jackson High booted the Yellow Jackets from the state playoffs, ending SEB’s state title hopes.
This year, head coach Kristen Barnhill said her team has improved greatly compared to last season and are ready for redemption.
“They actually knocked us out of the sweet 16 last year and they beat us 3-1. We’re definitely looking for revenge,” Barnhill said. “Our leaders are stepping up and our younger kids are developing and making better decisions. I think we’re playing a lot better.”
SEB (11-6-1) will hit the road today for the first round of state playoff competition with a 5:45 p.m. scheduled start time. The Yellow Jackets have won three of the last four games and tied with Statesboro High School in an April 9 game.
As SEB prepares to take on the Red Devils, here’s a look at some key factors in the Yellow Jackets playoff matchup.
In last year’s sweet 16 game against the Red Devils, the Yellow Jackets were outhustled on both sides of the ball, Barnhill said.
In the days of practice leading up to the rematch against Jackson, Barnhill noted her team has worked all week on picking up the intensity in practice.
The Red Devils have a similar style of play compared to SEB and Barnhill wants to exploit Jackson’s center midfielder by outworking her.
“They just outworked us (last year). All the drills we’ve been doing this week have been full intensity. I’ve been running them more,” Barnhill said. “I’ve been running them through drills and 1-on-1 drills. I want them to know that they have to fight for everything.”
SEB gives you wings
The Yellow Jackets’ advantage in the opening round of the playoffs will be the play of its wing players.
Kera Olsen and Rayna Cowart have been playing well as of late, Barnhill said, and can be the difference in the game with their crosses.
“That’s the underlying thing that’s going to help us win. We need our wings to dominate the game. They don’t get a lot of credit, but they could be the difference,” Barnhill said.
Barnhill also mentioned the play of her center-mids Cole Robertson and Keeley Klein.
Both Klein and Robertson can give the Red Devils matchup problems.
Fast and furious
Instead of playing not to lose, Barnhill wants her team to score early and keep the momentum.
In a 4-2 win over Islands High School on April 21, Barnhill said her team’s fast pace led to a victory.
A quick score for the Yellow Jackets could put all the pressure on the Red Devils.
“I think the kids know what they need to do. It’s all about execution. They can’t wait to see what the other team does. I’ve been trying to change the mindset and I think everyone understands their roles,” Barnhill said. “If we could put two in early we could seal the deal.”
Horace Holloman may be reached at (912) 489-9408.