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Statesboro girls charging into new season
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    Last season, the Statesboro girls soccer team nearly won its region and easily secured a spot in the Class AAAAA state tournament. This time around, expectations remain high as the Lady Blue Devils return a solid group that are set on spurring another — hopefully longer — run into the state playoffs.

Currently, the Lady Blue Devils stand at 1-1-1, with a non-region showdown scheduled at East Laurens today at 5:30 p.m. The Devils are coming off of a solid season and are hoping that tough early tests give them the right mindset before heading into region play.

“Right now, we’re looking to build momentum and confidence,” SHS coach Brian Thomas said. “More experience is always good. We’ve got a good idea of what roles everyone will be playing, but the early part of the season helps us see how players will respond to different things.”

The Devils are relatively young this year, with five seniors outweighed by a wealth of sophomores and freshmen. But the upperclassmen saw all of the good and bad in last year’s run and are determined to take the next step this season.

“We’ve got three senior captains who are always pushing everyone to be their best,” Thomas said. “We want to play well in every game, but they are pushing everyone for our goal of winning a region championship.”

Looking ahead, senior forward Isabella Gutierrez again figures to be the primary goal scorer. The Furman signee shined last season, but she’ll have help from overcompensating defenses this season from senior midfielder Smith Kaiser — who was a fellow offensive threat last season — along with freshman forward Tanner Kaiser and sophomore forward Katelyn Carter, who served up three assists in last week’s 5-0 win over Southeast Bulloch.

In past seasons, Statesboro has often kept some of its stronger players in the midfield and back lines, defending and gauging other teams before pressing forward late to attack. This season, a strong and established defensive front should allow the Devils to keep opposing offenses at bay while putting their biggest offensive weapons in place to counter and score.

“We’re really confident in girls like Morgan Thompson, Jordan Palmer, Rachel Thomas and Abigail Landing,” Brian Thomas said. “We know that they can hold the line defensively. They can also get forward and give us a boost on offense.”

Statesboro sits at 1-1-1 on the season and heads to Dublin for a 5:30 p.m. start against East Laurens this evening.