Liberty County’s Lady Panthers’ soccer match against Long County Tuesday in Ludowici had the intensity of two boxers slugging it out in prize fight.
With playoffs just around the corner both teams hoped the big 2-AAA Region matchup would help secure a higher seeding in the standings. The game went into overtime with the score tied at 1-1. The Lady Tide secured the 2-1 victory.
Karelis Jones and Kylee Proffitt put up the two goals for Long County. Kayla Hernandez scored for Liberty.
Lady Tide coach Sabrina Caines said the win was crucial for her team to have a chance for the No. 2 spot in the region.
"This win puts us in a better position for the second seed in the region, it is also a big confidence boost as we go into the last of our region games," Caines said.
Caines said her all of her team played well against the Lady Panthers, but one player stood out.
"I was very pleased by my team’s performance," Caines said. "I’m finally seeing some improvements in our passing game. Adelle Cook was a valuable player and filled both offensive and defensive positions for us tonight, versatile players are hard to find and Cook can be called on to give her all in any position."
Caines said her team’s final three games are important.
"We need to win our last three region games against teams that we already have a win against this season, we are working toward clinching that number two spot," she said.
Liberty County coach Marissa Kerins said her players have shown dedication all season.
"I am extremely proud of the girls this season," Kerins said. "We have a lot of girls that came out for soccer for the first time and have made tremendous progress. I’m most proud that no matter what, my girls fight until the clock runs out, with good sportsmanship.
"During the Long County game, I was so impressed to see such effort. Despite the 88 degree heat, we continued to make good plays as we passed down the field and showed great defense through marking up."
Kerins said several of her players have been key.
"This season, we are fortunate to have four captains, Sidney Wilkinson, Andrea Redding, Tia Anderson and Carmae Gumataotao, each of which have stepped up to lead in amazing ways. Sidney is currently leading the league in points (43) and goals (21). Another great addition to our team is (goalie) Madison Winn, she has shown amazing talent in the net and has made an incredible impact on this team," Kerins said.
Two of soccer’s big dogs in Region 2-AAA Region faced off Tuesday in Ludowici with Liberty County taking on Long County.
In recent years, both have been facing off for the top spot. This year, they went into Tuesday’s game tied for the region’s second spot. But both have a good shot at playing for the region championship.
The game kicked off with both squads playing aggressive and fast. As the night went on it was apparent that Long County had the edge. The final was 4-0 for the Blue Tide.
Putting in Long’s goals were Alex Maldonado, Paul Cruz, Ishmael Franco and Abel Cruz.
Long County coach Paul Austin said that the win was big because it keeps the Blue Tide in contention for the top seed in the region.
"It keeps us on track to play for first place in the region," Austin said. "I think there is a three-way tie now, so we have to win out."
He said his team is playing solid, but that staying healthy for the remainder of the season is crucial.
"I think we are getting healthy," the coach said. "We are now having better second halves, which is what we have been working on. The guys played very well as a team tonight, and as long as we continue doing that, we should be good."
Liberty County coach Kristin Hill said his team can play better than they did.
"It was a tough loss for our team, coming off a long weekend was our biggest factor in the loss," Hill said. "I was disappointed with our team’s play because our fundamental skills went out the window and we are a much better team than we portrayed."
Though he was disappointed, Hill did praise his bench and recognized one player.
"I was impressed with the skills of my players that came off the bench," the coach said. "They work really hard in practice and don’t get much playing time, so it’s really nice to have them put in as much effort as they do. Daniel Futch, our goalie, was our best player during the game even though four goals were let in. His skill set has improved tenfold since last season."
With the win, Long County improved to 8-3 overall and 5-2 in the region. Liberty County fell to 6-6 and 4-3.
Friday, both schools were on the road with the Panthers taking on Tattnall County and the Blue Tide facing Appling County. Results were not available in time for this story.
Tuesday, all the teams are at home. Liberty County hosts Pierce County (8-4 boys and 12-0 girls) and Long County hosts Brantley County (0-10 boys and 6-4 girls). The girls start at 5 p.m. and the boys at 7. Tuesday’s game is Senior Night for the Blue Tide.