It was a slow walk back to the bench at the conclusion of Monday’s Final Four state playoff game for the Model Lady Blue Devils.
But with their heads held high, it was apparent they knew they had helped Model’s girls’ soccer program reach new heights this season through perseverance and a historic playoff run.
The Lady Blue Devils’ win streak ended Monday at 16 games as the team suffered a 2-1 loss to Vidalia in its first ever appearance in the semifinals of the GHSA Class AA state soccer playoffs at Model’s Woodard-Tuggle Stadium.
Model head coach Kacie Crowder remained optimistic and proud of her players’ accomplishment after their season had come to an end.
“They put everything out there,” Crowder said. “My goal at the beginning of the season was for these girls to finish in the Final Four. Our goal was the Final Four the whole time, and I’m proud of them for making it. This isn’t how we wanted it to end it. We wanted to go all the way, but I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
Model, ranked No. 5 in the state in Class AA by Eurosportscoreboard.com, trailed at halftime 2-0 before the Lady Blue Devils were able to cut the Lady Indians’ lead to 2-1 in the 67th minute when Libby Upton was able to score on a pass from Lauren Akemon.
Logan Reid got the Lady Indians, ranked No. 2 in the state, on the scoreboard early in the game, scoring in the seventh minute to put her team up 1-0. Ella Owen scored 20 minutes later to give Vidalia a 2-0 advantage they would fight to hold the rest of the way.
Despite the loss, Upton’s goal kept a streak alive for Model (17-2-1), which scored at least once in every game this season. Model’s only other loss was a 3-2 loss to Final Four contender Bremen in February.
“I just didn’t want to end with a shutout,” Crowder said. “We definitely won that second half. If we had played our first half like we did our second half, then we could’ve won, no doubt. But we took a half to adjust and that’s what happens when you don’t step up for the first 40 minutes.”
The Lady Devils lost four seniors from this year’s team, including Upton. The others are Katie Robbins, Nora Grace Snow and Gracie Wheat. Crowder said their absence will definitely be felt.
“Losing our seniors is going to be really tough,” Crowder said. “Each of them contribute in their own way. They have so much heart and they love the game so much. They put every single thing that they have in it. Losing them next year is going to leave us with some pretty big shoes to fill.”
Emotions ran high for both teams as they battled to stay alive. By the 68th minute, Vidalia had received two yellow cards and Model received three yellow cards in the final eight minutes of the game.
“The game was very emotional for a lot of them,” Crowder said. “It was very physical, but they held their own, so I was really proud of them.”
The Lady Indians (20-1) move on the Class AA championship game where they will face the winner of Tuesday’s matchup between Bremen and defending state champion St. Vincent’s.