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SHS, SEB girls face difficult road tests

BROOKLET – It seems as if the Southeast Bulloch girls soccer team has been playing from behind since the season kicked off.

            The Lady Yellow Jackets began the season trying to replace valuable pieces that had graduated the previous year. SEB found its footing as the season wore on, but a loss in the regular season finale sent them into the Class AAA state playoffs with its region’s lowest seed.

            Matched up against top-seeded Thomson, the Jackets (9-9) fell behind before mounting a comeback 2-1 win in last week’s first round matchup.

            SEB now travels even farther north as the Jackets take on Jackson today in second round action.

            “Last week was a huge win for us,” SEB coach Kristin Barnhill said. “We have some older girls who have been to the playoffs, but couldn’t get that win. Now we’ve got that monkey off of our backs and we’re moving forward.”

            The Jackets have lacked offensive explosiveness at times throughout the season, but came up big with everything on the line last week.

            Stacey Elliott finished off of a cross from Ana Olsen to tie SEB’s first round game and Olsen sent in a corner kick that deflected off a defender and into the net for the winner.

            “It’s something I’ve been trying to get the girls to see in themselves all season,” Barnhill said. “We’ve had practices or games where we just can’t get into it. I Think we saw what we’re capable of.”

            The winner of tonight’s game will face either Dawson County or top-seeded St. Pius in the quarterfinals.


Statesboro girls face Spalding

            There has been no shortage of tests for the Lady Blue Devils of Statesboro to overcome this season.

            Replacing the majority of the 2013 offense and enduring another rash of injuries were plenty to handle, but last week – just ahead of its opening round playoff game – the team was rocked by the news that assistant coach Tyler Crowder was one of two former SHS coaches arrested on charges of sexual assault.

            “That’s something that you’re just not prepared for,” SHS coach Brian Thomas said. “It’s something that would never be expected. It’s tough for everyone to deal with.

            “We had a team meeting last week and I credit our team leaders. There are older and younger girls that had really positive things to say and I think we’re coping with things as best we can.”

            Getting onto the field and playing has been a welcome distraction and – thanks to Emmalyne Sisson’s late goal in the first round game against Worth County – there is more soccer to be played.

            Next up is a trip to the southern outreaches of Atlanta for a showdown with Spalding County.

            The Lady Jaguars enter today’s game with a 16-1 mark and have allowed just five goals while winning their last 12 games in a row.

            “We know that they have a strong team,” Thomas said. “But I think we’re on the right path. A lot of times, you hit your stride in the middle of the year and fade out. I think we’re playing to our potential right now.”

            Tonight’s winner advances to the quarterfinals to face either Columbus or Chamblee.


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