Despite strong efforts, the Richmond Hill High School boys and girls soccer teams bowed out of the state playoffs in Columbus after losses in the first round to end what have been overall spectacular seasons for their respective programs.
The boys matched goals 3-3 with Hardaway, but Hardaway got the win based on penalty kicks.
Goals were scored by Brian Wood, Ben Botelho and Mitch Doud.
The fast-paced action, which included rain throughout the entire match, included 15 saves by Wildcat keeper Zach Alltop and 21 saves by Hardaway’s goalee. The Cats held a 2-0 lead at halftime, and a last minute (literally) rally from Hardaway prevented the boys from advancing. Hardaway scored goals with 14 minutes to go followed by additional goals at the 8 minute and 45 second marks.
"In all my years of coaching, this was probably the best half of soccer I’ve ever seen," head coach Wade Wright said of the skills displayed by both teams in the final half. "We played perfect soccer for 30 minutes. I wish more people from around here could have come out and seen this game. It was a great game to watch and highly entertaining."
Wright said that his boys were visibly tired in the final minutes "from the high energy they expelled to get there" which attributed to his boys missing two solid goal opportunities.
"We dominated the game in overtime, but didn’t finish them," said Wright. "That’s been our Achilles heel this season. Anytime you go to penalty kicks, it’s like going to Vegas, you roll the dice and see what happens."
The Cats finish with an 11-4-2 final season tally.
"Holy cow, what a ride we’ve been on," Wright added. "It’s been a lot of fun. We’re disappointed about not advancing, but not disheartened. It came down to a battle of wills. We wanted to play a control game with possession and they wanted to play a physical game, and it was like two bulls butting heads."
The girls lost 3-1 to Harris County with a goal scored by Tyler Carlson, four saves by Sarah Parker and two saves by Kristin Oddi.
To give you an idea about what kind of the season the girls just had, take a look at the following stats attributed to it: highest number of wins in program history (15), most successful senior class in program history 54 - 15 - 6 (78 percent wins), 5 players scoring in double figures for the season, most players in program history to score at least one point, most shots on goal for season (437) or 26 per game, lowest goals against average in program history (.65), and most shutouts in program history (10).
"For a team that lost its top three scorers from a year ago, and one of those now playing at the UGA, we were extraordinarily successful this season because our girls who returned focused on building a team-oriented atmosphere," said head coach Steve Kollman. "Our young players were able to learn quickly to compete at the varsity level, and our dedicated group of parents provided their student athletes with a wonderfully positive atmosphere. It has been my most enjoyable season coaching, and I am so very happy to be the girls soccer coach at Richmond Hill High School right now."
"The girls drove 6 and a half hours to play in driving rain on a tiny postage stamp of a field," Kollman said of the final game. "The bus ride killed our legs and the rain hurt our passing game on their tiny field, as the ball was slick and there was not much room to operate our offense. They were a quality team, who played a physical game, but I felt we had the better number of players and depth. We just didn’t get off the bus ready to play mentally due to the long trip."
The Cats took 20 shots to Harris County’s 9. The Harris keeper stopped at least 6 potential breakaways by beating the Richmond Hill forwards to the ball at the top of the box by less than a step. She also made two big time saves. One on a direct kick by Lauren Hall from 22 yards out, and the other on a shot by Mackenzie Qua from the right side that was thought when she hit it.
Harris scored with a minute left in the first half, so the Cats played catch up in the second. Lady Wildcat Tyler Carlson scored to make it 2-1 with about 8 minutes left and kept pushing 8 forward to get the tying goal. Harris got an easy goal on a misplay by a Richmond Hill defender who came up to play the ball on a bounce, but hit some standing water and skipped low to the ground instead, and giving the opposing team a breakaway to make it 3-1.
Tyler Carlson and Lori Barnes both matched up against senior defenders, one of whom has signed with Ole Miss (SEC) and beat them to over half the through balls. Lori Barnes got off 9 shots against a good defense and keeper, while Tyler Carlson scored the loan goal on 3 shots. The Lady Cats finish with a 15-2-0 final season tally.
"A major bright spot for the Lady Cats was the play of our freshman forwards who played outstandingly in their first taste of the State round of Georgia soccer," Kollman added. "For the seniors it was a wonderful season that these girls will look back on with pride for years to come. For the underclassman, the bar has been raised for the next group of players to make a larger impact on the program and in the state."