Evans' Kevin Burton (left) battles for control of the ball with Woodward Academy's Zach Crain during their state semifinal soccer game at Evans High School. The Knights lost 3-0.
Photo by Michael Holahan
Sam Giovino felt before the season that the Evans soccer team would be successful if it made the playoffs and contended for a region title.
His team did much more.
Evans (15-6-1) made it to the Class AAAA state semifinals and had the highest ranking in school history. It was also the deepest playoff run by a Knights team.
The season ended, though, at home Wednesday in a 3-0 loss to No. 2 Woodward Academy in the state final four.
"We exceeded any expectations I had for this season," Giovino said. "We made it farther than any team in the county, and we were in the first final four in school history. It is something to be proud of."
The Knights trailed for most of the game, 1-0, after a Shaun Caesar goal in the 17th minute.
The score was nearly evened near the end of the first half when Giovino was lobbed a pass with only the goalkeeper to beat. But Woodward keeper Lance Kichler barreled into Giovino about five yards inside the box. A free kick was awarded, but Kichler caught the shot by Kevin Burton.
"We were both playing the ball," Giovino said. "I don't think you can make that call for a penalty kick."
Woodward midfielder Zach Bennett scored two breakaway goals in less than a minute late in the second half to put the game out of reach. If it weren't for acrobatic Evans keeper Joey Ralph, Bennett would have scored two more in quick succession.
"I've said it over and over again," said Evans coach Brian Killips. "Joey Ralph is the best keeper in the state of Georgia. The score was in no way indicative of how the game was really played. Joey stepped up and played his heart out."
It was the first time Evans had been shut out since March 29 against Clarke Central, and only the second time all season.
"We didn't really get any good shots off on their keeper," said Giovino, the Knights' leading scorer. "That was disappointing because we knew we are better than that."
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