Thursday, March 6, 2014
Last year, the North Augusta girls soccer team made the playoffs. This year, they’re looking to take the next step.
Head coach Matt Sawicz said the goal is the same as the past few years: to be more and more competitive in the region.
“We’re playing in probably the toughest region in the entire state going into the playoffs,” he said. “We had the third, fourth and sixth ranked teams in the state in our region. Finishing fourth in our region is nothing to scoff at. That’s where we set our floor at. Hopefully we are closing the gap with those big three schools in our region.”
That big three includes Lexington, South Aiken and Dutch Fork. Last year the team beat West Florence in the first round, 4-2, before falling to Beaufort 2-0 in the second round. The overall record was 9-10, which on paper may not be appealing, but did feature six games against the big three in Region 5-AAAA. North Augusta also played the No. 2 overall team in the state in a non-region game (Blythewood).
“We saw a lot of pretty tough competition all year,” Sawicz said. “The loss to Beaufort was a little disappointing, so we want to get back there. We’re running nine out of 18 players. We got hit hard by graduation and a couple of injuries. We’re a young team, but we have a lot of girls that can play. One of the things I’ve pushed since coming in is that the girls play competitive club soccer in the fall versus just being in a rec program. I’ve seen a lot of improvement from there.”
One girl the team will lean on heavily is junior captain Brittney Barnes.
“We’re going to have a really good season this year,” she said. “ ... Of course we want to go all the way, be region champs and win in the playoffs. My personal goal is that I want to be able to step better instead of just cutting people off. Instead of yelling at people, I want to lead them as well.”
Barnes is the team’s center back, which Sawicz said is the equivalent of a quarterback in football.
“She’s going to run the field and see everything in front of her,” he said. “She’s going to keep us organized out of the back and let some of our other players up top have freedom to be able to attack. This is her third year on the varsity team and she has played club for me the past three years, as well. Very good player, very skilled and athletic and a player we’re going to rely on a good bit.”
Taylor Hurst, who signed with Lander University, is only one of two seniors.
“I have a really strong core of juniors with Mary Owens and Margo Harris,” Sawicz said. “Also we’ll rely heavily on our sophomores, including Tianni Pierner and Stephanie Mentrup. We’ve got quite a few players up and down. We’re balanced on the roster and I have three freshmen who start for me. They’re not out of place there. It’s nice to have that balance.”
The girls’ first regular season game will be at Evans at 5:30 p.m. on March 12. They will then play Grovetown at home on March 14 at 5:30 p.m. as well.