The season ended for three Columbia County high school soccer teams last week, but five other county prep squads surged into the second round of the Georgia High School Association state soccer playoffs.
For the first time ever, all eight county public-school soccer teams qualified for the state tournament, and they all had home-field advantage in the first round.
The Lakeside boys got the ball rolling with a 2-0 win over Shaw on Monday at Panther Stadium. The Raiders packed the defensive end in an attempt to slow down Lakeside, but Grant Guthrie powered in for a pair of late goals to lead the Panthers into the second-round of Class AAAA play.
Weather washed out Tuesday's contests, but the boys came back Thursday, and Greenbrier was ready - the Wolfpack improved its record to 16-0 by posting a 5-1 win over Columbus in a Class AAAA match at the Brierpatch.
The bad news, though, is that Evans and Harlem dropped their Thursday matches. In a Class AAAAA contest at Blanchard Stadium, the Knights battled state power Pope, but Evans eventually fell 2-1. At Harlem, the Bulldogs were ousted in Class AAA with a 4-0 defeat to South Effingham.
Harlem's Beyra Ortega heads the ball in front of Liberty County's Stephanie Allbright. The Harlem girls soccer team was playing host to a state soccer playoff for the first time in the school's history.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
George Berry coaches the boys and girls soccer teams at Harlem, and he received some consolation from the Lady Dogs. In a thrilling Class AAA match Wednesday against Liberty County, Harlem rallied to a 2-1 overtime victory.
Liberty featured some strong players, but Harlem countered with speed and skill. Late in the second half, Beyra Ortega made a perfect cross and Jamie Nevin fired the tying goal into the net.
Nevin notched the game-winner to keep Harlem's dream season alive. Prior to 2003, the Lady Dogs had never won a region title or competed in the state tournament - now they've done both, and with a 19-1 record the young squad is just getting started.
"It's been a fantastic season. The girls are playing as a team," Berry said. "They've exceeded my expectations, and they've exceeded the expectations they've had for themselves."
The Evans Lady Knights weren't as fortunate Wednesday at Blanchard Stadium. Roswell rolled to an 11-0 win at Blanchard Stadium to end the Lady Knights's visit to the Class AAAAA tournament.
In Class AAAA girls action Wednesday, Lakeside and Greenbrier flexed their muscled with convincing first-round victories. The Lady Pack pounded Griffin 6-1 at the Brierpatch, while the Lady Panthers blanked Columbus 3-0.
"We've been very fortunate with the shutouts," Lakeside coach Donnie Rogers said of his team's 14 shutouts this season. "Goalkeeping has been a strength, and I'm just elated with our defenders."
Both Lakeside teams travel Monday to play Ware County in second-round Class AAAA action. The Greenbrier boys are at home Monday for second-round play against Chapel Hill from Douglasville.
The Lady Pack returns to the Brierpatch Tuesday for a second-round Class AAAA match with Northgate. The Harlem girls will play host to Central Macon Tuesday in a Class AAA second-rounder.
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