Valdosta Daily Times

May 8, 2013

Lowndes girls advance to Elite 8

Ed Hooper
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — Ashley Miller joked with coach Chris Willis following the Lowndes Vikettes’ 2-0 win over Douglas County Tuesday night at Martin Stadium, asking him what it felt like to advance to the Elite 8.

His answer: “I don’t know. I’ve never been here before. I’m in uncharted territory.”

For the first time under Willis, who has helped lead the Lowndes girls to three straight Region 1 championships, the Vikettes’ soccer team advanced past the second round of the Class AAAAAA state playoffs and into the state quarterfinals.

The Vikettes will host either Brookwood or Mill Creek, a pair of Gwinnett County powers, Friday night inside Martin Stadium.

“I am so proud of the girls,” Willis said. “They worked so hard. We changed around some things, sat people down, who were seniors. I had seniors that were telling me, ‘Coach, if someone is faster than me, sit me down. Let them play.’ Do you know what kind of discipline and unselfishness that is for someone to do that? That is the character of this team.”

A goal from senior Ashley Miller in the 21st minute gave Lowndes a 1-0 lead, before freshman Elizabeth Lott received a pass from senior Katie Willis and broke loose, beating the goalkeeper to her left and adding the Vikettes’ final goal in the 39th minute.

“It looked like our defense looked solid back there, so I moved Ashley, our center, back up top just to see if we could create some action up there,” Willis said. “And it did happen. She is a very dynamic player off the ball and on the ball. And once that happened, everyone started to push the tempo.”

Lowndes held on to its lead throughout the second half, dominating the field of play and not allowing Douglas County to have many scoring chances inside the final 40 minutes.

The key, says Willis, was the play of Lowndes’ center midfielders and outside midfielders.

“The center mids, Chelan (Worms) and Alex Haun, kept control,” Willis said. “It was switching fields the whole night. Our outside mids, Darby Jones and Hannah-Jo Isaacson, man they ran so hard and they gave us the lanes all day long.”

Tuesday’s win in the second round was the complete opposite of last year’s 2-0 loss to Collins Hill in the second round at Martin Stadium, a game where the Vikettes’ were dominated. On Tuesday, though, the Vikettes were the ones dominating.

Lowndes pushed the tempo all night, getting ample looks at the goal, including in the second half, but missed wide and high. For Willis, the only negative his team had on Tuesday was all the missed goals, something that will need to be fixed if his team will advance to the Final Four for the first time.

“If we don’t finish, Friday night could be rough,” he said.

Friday’s game is set for a 5:30 p.m. start. Tonight, the Lowndes boys will face Newnan in the second round of the state playoffs tonight at Martin Stadium. The game is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m.

“We get to play Friday,” Willis said. “I am so excited. We haven’t played Friday here in about a decade — in the Elite 8.”