In 2009, the Statesboro boys soccer team advanced to the state elite eight. Current Blue Devil head coach David Ball knows that fact well as he was a player on that team.
Ball is now looking to guide his Blue Devils back to the state quarterfinals as Statesboro travels to Union Grove Wednesday evening for the second round of the Class AAAAA state playoffs.
“It was very special to reach the quarterfinals as a player,” Ball said. “Growing up and playing soccer for years with most of the guys on the team makes it that much sweeter. I still keep in touch with most of the guys from the 2009 team.
“Coaching into the elite eight is a bit different,” Ball said. “All season long you want to make sure that your style of play and the decisions you make are accurate and efficient toward the team’s success. Advancing to the elite eight would give me so much joy for our players, and would give me the proof that the coaching strategies I have used have paid off for us.”
Wednesday the 11-7-1 Blue Devils travel to McDonough to square off against the 13-4-2 Wolverines of Union Grove, who earned the No. 1 seed out of Region-4.
“We know they are a solid team,” Ball said. “They have a good defense, and attack well with good footwork on offense. It’s going to be a challenge to penetrate that defense.”
Union Grove advanced to the second round after getting quite a scare from No. 4 seed Fayette County, before finally scoring late, and winning 1-0.
“You can’t really rely on a score from the first round,” Ball said. “You don’t know if they had a player out, or if the four seed from the other region was really good. All we can focus on is doing the things we do well, and hopefully that will be enough to get us past them.”
The Blue Devils and Wolverines get things going Wednesday at 5:30 in McDonough.
Advancing to the state quarterfinals is nothing new for Statesboro. The Blue Devils also accomplished that in 2014. But for this team, Ball feels as though a win will keep the momentum up — and then who knows how far the Blue Devils could go?
“I feel like this is truly a team,” Ball said. “We aren’t a bunch of individuals. We don’t have that one person who scores all the goals, or rely on a certain player to get us going every game. There is no individual mentality. Every player has unique skill sets that is important for us.”