Adairsville soccer advances to Elite Eight

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Adairsville took a comfortable 2-1 lead at the break and then ripped off five unanswered goals for a 7-1 victory over Jackson to advance to the Elite Eight in the Georgia AAA girls playoffs Wednesday.

It is the furthest the growing state soccer power — which has made the state soccer playoffs five times, the last four in a row — has ever advanced in the playoffs.

The Lady Tigers improved to 17-1 overall with the victory while Jackson High fell to 7-4 overall.

“Making the Elite Eight is a first for our school,” David Sexauer said. “I told our girls they did something special tonight, and it was a great win for them. It took everybody, all our players and coaches working hard and together.”

Adairsville entered the game as the No. 7 ranked team in the state. Its next game — against Savannah Arts Academy — will be played Friday or Saturday at Adairsville by virtue of the fact that the Lady Tigers won a coin toss. Savannah requested the game be played on Friday and a decision had not been reached on that request by deadline, officials said.

The Lady Tigers scored only two goals in the game’s first half but then their offensive players got a better handle on lighting up the scoreboard.

Emily Collum tallied the game’s initial goal in the 15th minute with an assist from Katie Lawhorn.

Jackson answered in the 25th minute to knot the score at one-all. Lance Hall, assistant coach, credited the score to the quick play of Jackson players.

“They have a freaky fast forward who slipped past our keeper and scored,” Hall said.

In the 33rd minute Chloe Cochran buried the ball in the net after an assist by Kaitlyn Webster.

Hall said Jackson showcased its speed the next 20 minutes but was unable to finish and left the door open for Adairsville.

“In about the 61st minute the tide shifted and Gillian Johnson scored off an Emily Collum assist,” Hall said.

“That was possibly the goal of the game because Collum was able fire the ball to the feet of Johnson, who was losing her balance but somehow guided it to the near post between the fullback and keeper to give us a 3-1 lead.”

In the 69th minute Adairsville took a commanding lead by getting around the wall employed by Jackson when Victoria Davis got a free kick for a 4-1 score.

“Vic pushed the ball about two yards and Katie Lawhorn fired a rocket to the net,” Hall said. “It was so fast you could almost see smoke coming off the ball.”

Hall said the play was something the Lady Tigers have been practicing, but this was the first time they’d actually used it in a game.

Collum assisted Chloe Cochran in the 74th minute, making it 5-1, and in the 78th minute, Haley Pittman assisted Cochran, who got a hat trick when she gave her team a 6-1 lead.

In the 79th minute, Katie Lawhorn passed the ball to Aleah Abernathy, who put a foot on the ball and beat the keeper for a goal that ended all scoring for the evening with the tally reading 7-1.

Adairsville’s keeper was Havyn Isaac, who had four saves.

Sexauer said the game ball was awarded to Emily Emmons.

“Emily really played hard for us and helped us with counterattacks,” the coach said.

Sexauer said one of the reasons Adairsville won was because it had experience in the type of game played by Jackson.

“We made a few adjustments when they kept switching formations,” he said. “We were able to counter with our own changes and we were able to score at will in the second half.”

He said Jackson has a very quick, talented team and Adairsville just found a way to pick up the victory.

“We were able to use 18 players and that’s something we really like to do, especially in the playoffs.”