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Rivalry heats up as SHS-SEB play to draw
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    BROOKLET — The Southeast Bulloch Lady Yellow Jackets (7-3-2) had their minds set on revenge after suffering a 4-0 loss to the Statesboro Lady Blue Devils (3-4-2) earlier this season, and while the Devils had their chances to score, Yellow Jacket keeper Kacey Jones and the determined SEB defense were able to preserve the shutout as the Thursday night match ended in a 0-0 draw.
    The absence of leading scorer Morgan Jones and several other Yellow Jackets was noticeable in the 4-0 loss earlier this season, so this time around, SEB coach Aimee Civalier decided to use her top scorer in multiple roles. Jones’ role was primarily on defense, but anytime there was a free kick, it would be given to her.
    “On any set plays that we had,” said Civalier, “I told (Jones) when we were on offense, I waned her to take corner kicks, direct kicks… She has a good foot from outside, and I was just hoping to get a scoring opportunity that way.”
    The Southeast Bulloch offense came out of the gate fired up, and controlled the ball offensively for most of the first 15 minutes. Although they were able to keep Statesboro on their heels, they only managed two first-half shots, both long range shots off the foot of Yellow Jacket sophomore Christina Finnegan. Both were grabbed out of the air by Blue Devil keeper Brittany Hood.
    The tables turned midway through the half as SHS went on the attack. After Kacey Jones saved a pair of shots, the Blue Devils failed to capitalize on numerous scoring opportunities. Each time it seemed as if Statesboro had a chance for a goal, a Yellow Jacket would intercept and clear the ball. Right before the half, Blue Devil Kate Brunson broke free and had a one-on-one situation with Jones, but speedy SEB defender Shelby Sanders was able to catch Brunson and disrupt the play.
    The teams combined for only four shots-on-goal in the first half, and the already fatigued teams went to the locker room with a 0-0 tie.
    Statesboro kicked off a fast paced second half when they exploded offensively. In the 43rd, Kelly Harris fired a shot at the top right corner of the net. A diving Jones made the save, but Anna Casey got the rebound and immediately fired another shot. This time, the shot was wide.
    The Blue Devils controlled the ball for most of the second half, out-shooting the Yellow Jackets 11-0, but could not get one by Jones. As the pace of the game increased, the play became more and more physical, with both teams showing their frustration. The physical play built up until second-half stoppage time with Morgan Jones and Rebecca Donahue both receiving yellow cards. They were both removed for the remainder of the match.
    After the whistle indicated the end of play, both teams were visibly heated, but coach Civalier was pleased with her team’s overall performance.
    “I feel like this is a win for us, even though it’s a tie,” said the Yellow Jacket coach. “We held them scoreless — we were on the defensive end most of the time. I was very pleased with Kacey (Jones). (She) came up with some big saves, and overall defensively I thought we did a great job.”
    Statesboro coach Andrew Hansen was also pleased with the way his team played defense, but was frustrated on his team’s missed opportunities.
    “(Southeast Bulloch) did what they had to do to keep the ball out of the net,” said Hansen. “Sometimes that is the hardest thing in soccer — to get that last step… the offensive third — that last step when you can get a shot. We did have some open opportunities, but we put it over the crossbar and that was the difference in the game right there. It’s frustrating.”
    Hansen was also pleased with the play of junior varsity keeper Alexis Balleck, who entered the game at the start of the second half and was credited with that half’s shutout.
    Yellow Jacket Kacey Jones was also credited with a shutout. She finished the game with seven saves.
    Southeast Bulloch returns to the field today when they travel to Toombs County to take on the Lady Bulldogs at 5 p.m. Statesboro will resume play Saturday at Noon, hosting Richmond Hill for the completion of a suspended match.

    Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9404.