The Valdosta Daily Times
The Lowndes girls’ soccer team has never been here under coach Chris Willis. The Brookwood Lady Broncos have been here plenty of times, even last year.
Tonight, the two ranked teams meet in the Class AAAAAA state quarterfinals (Elite 8) at Lowndes’ Martin Stadium. The game begins at 7 p.m.
“I preach it to them all the time that opportunities come in life and they present themselves and when you’re in a position, you can make things happen,” Willis said. “Once those opportunities are gone, you are not guaranteed them anymore. So make the most of your opportunities.”
Lowndes’ run to the Elite 8 comes after years of dominance in South Georgia, including three straight Region 1 championships.
In the last three years, Lowndes has only surrendered 29 goals, while goalkeeper Alison Liu has recorded 36 shutouts.
Tonight, the Vikettes face one of their toughest tests as a program, welcoming a traditional power to Martin Stadium — a team responsible for state championships, including in 2003 when they tied for the state title with rival Parkview.
A trip to the Final Four is on the line tonight.
“They are quite aware,” Willis said. “As soon as I knew what was happening with Mill Creek-Brookwood (in the second round), about half of them were already online and had looked up on Google as much as they could about Brookwood. They did their homework. This team has a 95 grade point average, they study. So many of these girls are on top of their class, so they did their homework. They are aware of the stakes at hand. They have done the research on their own.”
Lowndes enters tonight’s game following victories against Kennesaw Mountain (2-1) and Douglas County (2-0) in the first two rounds of the state playoffs. Brookwood enters following victories over Milton (2-0) and second-ranked Mill Creek (4-0).
Brookwood has a lot of talent, a pair of shutouts this postseason and six straight playoff appearances prove that. Lowndes is well aware of it and, like Willis said, the players have done the research on the Lady Broncos.
“They have two really good forwards,” Willis said. “They play a 4-4-3 and they have a big tall center-forward, who is their main goal scorer. They are pretty effective outside.”
Defensively, the Broncos are strong, shutting down Mill Creek’s Lauren Tanner, a University of Georgia signee that is regarded as one of the state’s best players, in Tuesday’s second round, shutting out the Hawks and turning heads throughout the state.
Luckily for the Vikettes, they don’t have a go-to player like Mill Creek, something Willis hopes will help his team’s chances tonight.
“Brookwood committed to stopping a primary target and we don’t really have a primary target, so they will probably play us straight up,” Willis said. “They key is putting enough pressure on them offensively, where their backfield can’t get involved in the offense.”
One offense, the Vikettes will have to convert their shot opportunities, something they struggled with in Tuesday’s shutout over Douglas County, missing multiple open opportunities right in front of the goal.
After the game, Willis said his team could “be in big trouble” if they didn’t convert opportunities tonight. When asked what he said to his team, his response was simple
“Nothing,” Willis said.
“I have tried to play it down. I’d mention it but I don’t want them to feel the pressure. I want them to play loose and fast and be confident. I haven’t really mentioned it.”