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BCHS girls in state playoffs; first time since 2016
soccer ball

It took two extra periods and a shoot-out but Bryan County’s gritty girls soccer team hunkered down and got the job done against Woodville-Tompkins in a loser go home game last Wednesday to earn a spot in the GHSA Class A-D1 state playoffs.

After 80 scoreless minutes Addie Longino and Graci Strickland beat Wolverines keeper Eva Aguillar from point blank range and freshman keeper Liz Harvey did the rest, stopping two shots after two other W-T attempts missed the net.

 “It was a team effort,” second-year coach Kristen Barnhill said. “Due to injuries. it was kind of a hodge-podge lineup. Raina (Covington) played for the first time in three weeks and we weren’t sure if Graci was going to be able to go.

“Raina was chomping at the bit to play. She and Graci really gutted it out,” Barnhill said. “They wanted to go to state and their leadership and commitment to this team are a key to the development of this program. Our younger players see this and it makes an impression.”

Covington suffered a hip injury midway through the wrestling season which sent her to the sidelines and she aggravated it in early February. She was in obvious discomfort in the second extra period and remained on the sideline during the shootout.

Bryan County (5-9), in the playoffs for the first time since 2016 and third time in school history, will now play at Temple (8-5-1) at 5 p.m. on April 11.  

The Redskins are not a team with much offensive punch instead relying on a strong defense to carry them through which is, basically, how Harvey wound up in goal replacing season long starter Skylar Lee.

 Harvey leads Bryan County in scoring with five goals and her 46 shots, 27 on goal, are nearly double of anyone else on the team. Haley Thomas has four goals, Kolbie English three, Strickland two and Harleigh Thurston one.

Prior to the Woodville game the Redskins lost to Screven County in another 0-0 double overtime game with the Gamecocks winning thanks to a 3-2 advantage in a shootout.   

Because of injuries Lee, who has 112 saves on the season while giving up only 28 goals, was moved to the center back position against Screven with Harvey moved to goalie.

“Soccer is a strategy game,” Barnhill said. “We want to be solid in back and that’s why, with the injuries, I moved Skylar. A lot of teams put their best athletes on offense. Ours are on defense.”             

The Redskins applied offensive pressure throughout the first half but could not get the ball in the net as Aguillar five times stopped what appeared to be a sure goal. Harvey was equally as good on the other end. She now has 22 saves in two games.

Barnhill has a soccer pedigree of her own.

After an outstanding high school career in her native Charlottesville, Va., she went on to play goalkeeper at the University of Maryland, then one of the top teams in the Atlantic Coast Conference, and helped the Terps to three NCAA tournament appearances.

Barnhill became a permanent fixture in goal the final 11 games of her junior year as the Terps lost to Rutgers in the first round of the NCAA tourney in a penalty shootout after the teams tied 1-1. She had 10 saves which is a school record for most saves in an NCAA game.

As a senior she led the ACC in saves with 94 and in the final 10 games of the regular season she limited opponents to one or fewer goals. Maryland lost to Penn State, 2-1, in the second round after opening with a 1-0 win over American University.

Upon graduating Barnhill took an assistant coaching job at American and the following year came to Georgia Southern as a graduate assistant. After three years with the Eagles she went to Southeast Bulloch before coming to Bryan County last year.

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