LUDOWICI -- It’s been five years since the Long County Blue Tide boys’ soccer team won a region championship. If there ever was a time for the team to make a turnaround, the 2022 season would be it.
The Blue Tide is on a streak of six years in the postseason and look to continue that trend in 2022. However, head coach Paul Austin believes that this team has what it takes to get back on top, but it will take a lot of hard work and consistency.
“We will have to step up in the big games,” Austin said. “We have a strong region and normally the top three make it to the Sweet Sixteen or Elite Eight each year…This year we will have a veteran team with six or seven seniors starting since their freshman year. We will rely heavily on our experience this year.”
In 2021, region champion Pierce County advanced to the quarterfinals before falling to Greater Atlanta Christian. In 2019, the current seniors’ freshman season, Tattnall County fell one goal short of advancing to the semifinals.
The class of 2022 will have a big task on their hands but have the experience to make moves. Many of them have played a big role since they got into high school, and they were all part of an undefeated, championship team their eighth-grade season.
Last year, the Tide fell to Savannah Arts Academy in the second round of the playoffs 2-1. Austin said the game “came down to depth” and that playing to a high intensity and on a larger field than they are accustomed “killed our legs” and led to the loss.
The Tide are looking to get back on top of the region and will have to contend with some top opponents. They open their season on Tuesday Feb. 1 at Jeff Davis.
The Long County Lady Blue Tide soccer team will go into the 2022 season with a fresh look and look to get back to their winning ways of old. One goal of the girls’ team is finally winning a region championship, something that has eluded them since their inception in 2013.
The Lady Tide will be led by a new head coach this year with former Tide standout softball and soccer player Harley Dawson taking over the reins.
Being a rookie head coach is not always the easiest, but Dawson said that she has been helped out by her assistant coaches, former Tide teammate Alyssa Anderson and Vera Anderson, who helped lead the Long County Middle School girls’ soccer team to an area championship in 2021, as well as the boys’ coaches.
“The transition of going to a head coach has been challenging, however, the girls have jumped on board and made it easier for me,” Dawson said. “You don't realize everything that has to be done behind the scenes to make sure the girls are set up to have a good season. The assistant coaches as well as Coach Austin and Coach Brace are very willing to assist in any way possible which is a tremendous help for me.”
In 2021, the Lady Tide did something that has been very strange to them as they went on the road in the first round of the state playoffs after a third-place finish.
Since 2014, the Lady Tide has made the playoffs every season, excluding the Covid cancellations in 2020, and from 2015-2019, the team was the runner-up in the region. Dawson said that the most apparent goal of all her players was to win a region championship.
“Our girls and coaches have been working very hard this season and are determined to push through the hump and overcome any challenge that steps in front of them on their way,” she said. “Coach Anderson brings tremendous knowledge of the sport to the table as well many drills to help our goal become a reality.”
One of the toughest things a new coach can experience is building a relationship with the team and making sure they stick together. However, for Dawson, this is not the case.
“The bond the girls have formed over the past couple of weeks is unbeatable and is duplicated on the field with communication and teamwork,” Dawson explained. “All of the girls and coaches have jumped on board with this program, and I am so excited to see these girls in action.”
The Lady Tide lost five players to graduation last season, but seemingly kept most of their core intact. Dawson talked about the girls who should make an impact for the team this year as well as the new opportunities they will have with adding a junior varsity team.
“We are bringing back quite a few returners as well as some newcomer freshmen who will see a lot of playing time,” she said. “We are so excited for the grit these girls bring with them to the soccer field and overall toughness with a determination to not back down from the challenge. We are also excited to be adding a JV girls team this year.”
The Lady Tide finished the 2021 season with an 8-6 record with a first-round exit in the state playoffs. They fell to Richmond Academy 4-3, just missing advancing to the Sweet Sixteen for the first time since 2018.
They will open the season on Tuesday, Feb. 1 at home against Jenkins High out of Savannah.