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SEB's long road to state begins

    BROOKLET — It will take some traveling, but the Southeast Bulloch girls’ soccer team is eager to get the Class AAA state playoffs underway.
    As the third seed out of its region, the Lady Yellow Jackets (9-4) will head northwest towards the Alabama border to take on No. 2 seed Central Carroll (8-6) in a first round matchup.
    The Jackets will travel nearly 250 miles — easily their longest trek of the season — to take on the Lady Lions.
    “It can be a big challenge to go that far for a game,” SEB coach Kristen Barnhill said. “Luckily, we have a great administration. (Athletic director Jack) Webb arranged for us to leave school a little bit earlier. We should be there over an hour before the game to stretch our legs out and get ourselves prepared.”
    Earlier this season, it seemed like the Jackets would be a shoe-in to host a first round game. SEB lost its season opener before ripping off eight consecutive victories. But the Jackets dropped their final two region matchups, sending them into third place and forcing them onto the road to begin the playoffs.
    Still, the Jackets remain confident.
    In their final game of the regular season, the Jackets got back on track with a dominating 4-0 win over Toombs County. SEB is hoping that the momentum from that win is still alive and well heading into today’s game.
    “In those losses, we kind of only played in the second half,” Barnhill said. “We got ourselves into holes that we couldn’t climb out of. That’s definitely something that I brought to everyone’s attention. I don’t think that will be a problem again.”
    Seeing as how Central Carroll is so far away and there are no common opponents between the two teams, the Jackets are up in the air when it comes to figuring out what to expect.
    From what Barnhill has heard, the Lions have a similar makeup and play a similar style of game as her club, which should make things a bit easier to prepare for.
    The Jackets’ biggest concern heading into today’s action is the loss of one of their biggest scoring threats.
    Sometime during the final month of the season, Morgan Friend injured her foot. Friend battled through a few games, but x-rays revealed two broken bones that will keep her out of action.
    “It’s a big blow for us,” Barnhill said. “Morgan is a big piece for us. We still have Netanya Suarez and Merekate Schlierf. They’re going to have to play a bigger role on offense.”
    The winner of today’s game will advance to a Sweet Sixteen game scheduled for May 7. Depending on the outcome of another first round game to be played today, the winner will either travel to Washington County or host Central Macon.

    Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9404.