"We played very well. We had a strong defense and countered whenever we had chances, but none of our shots found net," Cartersville head soccer coach D.J. Paradis said. "They had one opportunity where they somehow split through our defenses to score."
He said the game was a defensive struggle the entire way.
"We fought to the very end," Paradis said. "Our last shot was taken with about 20 seconds left in the game. We just couldn't find the back of the net."
The Red Elephants had rolled into the playoffs on the strength of 14 wins in a row based largely on strong offensive performances, had scored their only goal with about three minutes remaining in the first half. But Gainesville could play defense, too, and held the Purple Hurricanes scoreless the rest of the way to preserve its victory.
"Gainesville is one of the best teams I've seen," Paradis said. "They were able to get on the back side to cross it over to a player who got behind our defender and took a shot and hit the far corner."
The shot, from about 18 to 20 yards out, was the only one all evening to find net for either team.
The Cane defenders had brought their A game to Gainesville, and they came close to knocking off the state's No. 2-ranked high school soccer team because of it.
"We knew what we had to do to make it a low-scoring affair," Paradis said. "We were able to do that, but we couldn't find net with any of our shots. We got a couple of shots on them and we got through a couple of times, but there were some deflections and some that just missed."
The coach said Gainesville was everything it was advertised to be. "They're fast. They're strong. They're a complete team. They had a good defense, just like we did."
But he said Cartersville represented its region well.
"I love these guys. They are family, and I wouldn't trade these guys for the world," he said. "We just kept fighting and played with a lot of heart."
He said he is proud of their play this season and has high expectations for next year.
"I'll miss the seniors on this team. They were our heart and soul," he said. "Our players, next year, have a great opportunity with the new region and we hope to make another run on the state and improve on what we did this year."
The loss dropped Cartersville's overall record to 9-9. Gainesville improved to 16-1-1 on the year.