An adjustment to the Model girls’ soccer lineup didn’t have the desired effect early on in their second-round matchup against Oglethorpe County.
During halftime, head coach Kacie Crowder decided to go back to what the Lady Devils normally do and the results spoke for themselves.
Trailing 1-0 after the opening 40 minutes, Model recovered and took a 6-2 win over Oglethorpe County at home Thursday in the Sweet 16 of the GHSA Class AA state playoffs.
Lady Blue Devil Lauren Akemon scored three goals and had an assist in Model's redeeming second half that sends them to the Elite Eight for the third year in a row.
Model was the lone Region 7-AA girls team to move out of the second round Wednesday as Coosa, Pepperell and Gordon Central all lost on the road to end their seasons.
Model head coach Kacie Crowder said she initially moved Akemon to midfield to compensate for Oglethorpe County’s speed, but the Lady Patriots were able to keep Model’s high-powered offense out of the net.
“It took a little bit out of our momentum going forward,” Crowder said. “I think that’s kind of where we messed up. In the second half, we decided to go back to our normal lineup, do what we had to do, and it worked out.”
The win was the 15th straight victory for the Lady Blue Devils, and they will host the winner of Thursday’s matchup between Harlem and Toombs County.
“We are really excited,” Akemon said. “We had a close Sweet 16 game last year, so we know the Elite Eight is going to be really hard. We feel really confident this year and we feel like we can go really deep in the playoffs.”
Anna Ruth Parker had two goals and an assist for Model, Libby Upton scored a goal and had an assist, and goalkeeper Deyvis Reader had eight saves.
Model (18-1-1) got on the board in the 43rd minute when Upton headed in a goal off an assist from Akemon. Akemon scored her first goal on a penalty kick three minutes later for the 2-1 lead.
“That was just electric,” Upton said. “We finally got our momentum kicking in. We just really played well together and connected in the second half. The momentum was there and the energy was there.”
The first-half goal scored by Oglethorpe County’s Madison Nimmons was the first given up by Model in five games. While the Model offense took over in the second half, the defense was able to shut down the Lady Patriots.
“We came together defensively to stop it in the midfield,” Crowder said. “When they get the ball going, there’s not really a lot of speed for us to stop them, so our midfield did a great job of shutting that down.”
Meanwhile, the Pepperell girls fell to Lamar County 9-1 a week after winning the program's first ever playoff game against top-seeded KIPP.
Pepperell (10-7) scored in the first 10 minutes of the second half on a goal by Ansley Davenport to cut Lamar County’s lead to 2-1, but the Lady Dragons couldn't hold off their opponent the rest of the way.
“They had a phenomenal team and their possession and speed was just too much,” Pepperell head coach Deana Spranza said. “I consider us to have one of the strongest defenses in the region, but we struggled tonight.”
Pepperell goalkeeper Bre Culpepper finished her high school career with an outstanding 22 saves.
“It’s not the result we wanted, but knowing that we’ve never made it to the playoffs and got to the Sweet 16, I couldn’t be more proud as a coach,” Spranza said. “They have worked so hard this year and there is nothing but big things for them in the future.”
Coosa's girls were also coming off their first ever playoff win in which they scored 10 goals, but were held scoreless on the road against top seed Bremen.
The host Lady Blue Devils shut out Coosa 6-0 to end the Lady Eagles' season at 10-4.