Cartersville, which has a 13-0 record in region play, and Adairsville, which is 12-1, will decide the champion when they tangle at Weinman Stadium at 5:30 p.m.
Cartersville has a one-game lead in the region standings so a loss would even its record with Adairsville, which it defeated earlier, and the Lady Tigers would walk off the field with the crown based on the tiebreaker that would come into play in event of a tie.
Although Cartersville has allowed its region opponents to score just four goals, Adairsville has limited the scoring of region foes even further, to just two goals.
Chad Murray, Cartersville’s head coach, said it is that stingy defense — Adairsville has recorded 13 shutouts this season — that catches his attention, even though his team is credited with 76 goals.
“We have the utmost respect for that program and what they’re doing,” Murray said. “As you can tell, it’s the best defensive team we played, including the Romes, the Dawson Counties and the other powers on our schedule. Nobody else kept us under three goals. After playing them in our first game, we honestly we felt not lucky but thankful that we were able to score the one goal we got. If that was not the best defensive team we faced, it certainly was the best keeper.”
David Sexauer, Adairsville head coach, said Cartersville is its usual self, which is to say it is playing great soccer.
“Cartersville has a great tradition of playing winning soccer,” Sexauer said. “They have great players who are very talented and quick.”
Both coaches said they are pleased to see that the mantle of best team in the region will fall to a Bartow team.
“I am excited to see both our programs have a meaningful game for our last game of the regular season, especially one that will determine a region championship,” Sexauer said. “Regardless of the outcome today, both teams will be playing in the state playoffs. This will be an awesome tuneup for the state playoffs, one that will be mutually beneficial.”
Murray echoed that sentiment.
“I think it’s fantastic to have two Bartow schools decide this. Everyone knows the stronger teams are to the south of us, around the Atlanta area,” he said. “This shows we’re taking care of business in Bartow County and improving where we need to improve. That’s the first step to having a strong playoff team every year.”
Sexauer is pleased with the play of his team and its development.
“We have the best team we’ve ever assembled and have 20 players,” he said. “We have enjoyed this season, and in 12 of the 16 games we’ve played, we’ve been able to use all of them. This has helped us develop depth and that has been so important. Also this season our players also have been able to play soccer at a more advanced level, using formations and playing together.”
Sexauer said defense has been a key for the Lady Tigers starting with keeper Amber Litteral and including a lot of other players.
“We have a goalie who’s been very successful but there are 10 girls in front on her,” Sexauer said. “We have two players, Blake Chagnon and Cherish Lowery, who both do a great job in turning away a lot of balls throughout the game.”
He said the Lady Tigers will be looking at their own game as well as at Cartersville’s in trying to win.
“We have to look at what’s worked for us this season, staying true to our game but also being able to make changes on the fly that will help,” he said.
The coach said Cartersville presents a lot of challenges.
“They have a lot of speed and a great transition game and that’s something we have to be prepared for,” Sexauer said. “They have all the hallmarks of a good team with the same qualities we can expect to see all through the state playoffs.”
Cartersville was not alone in scoring a lot of goals. Adairsville is credited with finding net 75 times.
Murray said Cartersville will have to play its best defense. He said the team also needs to attempt a lot of shots to improve its chances of winning.
“One of our strengths is we do a good job of possessing the ball,” he said. “Anytime you can do that, you should have a lot of offensive chances and good things normally happen when you do that. Judging from the first game we played, we need help from the law of averages against their keeper. We probably need to get 15 or more shots just so the law of average comes into play and you might slip one by.”
Sexauer noted both teams are going to the state playoffs and will host at least one playoff game regardless of today’s outcome.
“This is the first time Adairsville will be hosting a state playoff game,” he said. “This is a milestone for us. Your team kind of comes of age whenever you begin hosting home games in the state playoffs.”
Sexauer said both teams will be able to use the matchup to help prepare for the playoffs. “This is being played at Weinman Stadium and should have the feel of a playoff game.”
Sexauer said Cartersville also will be honoring its seniors and that could help the Lady Canes.
Murray said the team has two senior starters — center mids Stefanie Will and Anna Phillips — and the team has been shooting for a top region spot all season.
“It’s one of your goals before you even see your team or hold tryouts — you want to win your region,” Murray said. “We’ve been working toward that all year. Adairsville has the same goals and they possibly have a little revenge motive going to. This is one of those games where both sides are talented and the winner will be whoever executes their plan better.”