Lakeside goalie Tiffany Rachels makes a diving catch during a
soccer practice scrimmage.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
Technically it's still winter, but that won't stop Columbia County's public high school soccer teams from officially breaking the ice on the spring sports season.
And when things kick off this week, there will be a familiar face on the sideline.
Former Greenbrier Wolfpack coach Donny Rogers is now the head coach of the Lakeside Lady Panthers. Rogers and his new squad open the 2003 season at 7 p.m. Tuesday with a road match against Lexington High School.
"I'm excited and I'm looking forward to it," Rogers said. "We've got a good group of girls. I'm anxious to see what we can do."
During his three-year run at Greenbrier, from 1996-99, Rogers led the Pack to two region titles, and in 1999 the team advanced to the Class AAA state finals.
Greenbrier lost that title match in heartbreaking fashion, as Woodward Academy pulled out a 1-0 win with a goal in the final minute.
"I still have nightmares about that," Rogers said.
Still, no other Columbia County public high school soccer team has ever advanced to the state championship game, so Rogers stands alone in that respect.
After the 1999 season, Rogers left Greenbrier to pursue other opportunities, but he stayed connected with soccer by officiating local matches and conducting clinics for TST Soccer. He also is the director of coaching for the Columbia County Patriots.
When Lakeside athletic director Randy Hill and principal Jeff Carney approached Rogers about coaching the Lady Panthers, Rogers didn't hesitate.
"I said definitely. The main reason I got back into it is as an educator," he said. "Soccer is just the icing on the cake."
Inheriting a solid team certainly sweetened the pot - the Lady Panthers are two-time defending Region 3-AAAA champions and have advanced to the state quarterfinals the past two seasons.
Lakeside returns most of its starters from last year, including seniors Brittni Combs (midfielder) and Stacy Moore (forward). Big things also are expected from Rebecca Bohler, Trisha Testa, Ansley Evans and Jamie Lake.
The Lady Panthers are loaded with goalkeepers, but are currently without the services of Carty Dunn, who suffered a torn ACL and will not return until mid-March.
Lakeside and Greenbrier are expected to battle for the Region 3-AAA title, and the crown could be decided when the teams meet on March 28 at Panther Stadium.
But Rogers refuses to put too much stock in that match against his old school.
"That's not the deciding game for our season. Our goal is to reach the state playoffs and excel from there," he said. "To be honest, I'm not really worried about wins or losses. We want to focus on getting better as a team and have the best players on the field in the state playoffs."
High School Soccer
Opening week schedule
Tuesday: Harlem at Glenn Hills (girls), 5:30 p.m.; Cedar Shoals at Lakeside (boys), 6 p.m.; Lakeside at Lexington (girls), 7 p.m.; Harlem at Butler (boys), 7:30 p.m.; Evans at Cedar Grove, TBA (girls) and 7:30 p.m. (boys).
Friday: Greenbrier Invitational (girls) - Greenbrier vs. Druid Hills, 7 p.m.; Lakeside vs. Sequoyah, 8:30 p.m.; Greenbrier at Aiken (boys), TBA; Harlem at Hephzibah, 5:30 p.m. (girls) and 7 p.m. (boys).
Saturday: Norcross at Evans, TBA (girls) and 1 p.m. (boys); Lassiter at Lakeside (boys), 3 p.m.; Greenbrier Invitational (girls) - Lakeside vs. Druid Hills, 1 p.m.; Greenbrier vs. Sequoyah, 3 p.m.; Harlem at Baldwin Tournament (boys), 9:30 a.m. and 1 p.m.
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