In 2008, the Lady Seminoles' championship dreams were crushed by Marist. This spring, its semifinals opponent was No. 2-ranked (AAAA) Whitewater, but the outcome still resulted in defeat as No. 3-ranked (AAAA) Salem lost 2-1 in the Final Four of the Class AAAA Georgia High School Association Girls State Soccer Tournament on Tuesday at Seminole Stadium.
All three combined goals were netted in the first half as the 2-1 score at intermission proved to the final tally to eliminate Salem from championship contention.
"I guess they (Whitewater) wanted it more. Whitewater worked hard, they have some really good players and they outplayed us today," said Salem girls' head coach Heather Cheek. "We were here last year and so close to achieving our goal. Here we are again and we just missed it."
The visiting Lady Wildcats broke a scoreless ballgame with 23:12 left in the first half when junior forward Erin Emerson received a pass from fellow classmate and mid/defender Jewelia Strickland that she drilled past Salem goalkeeper Shallon Hobbs to put Whitewater on top 1-0.
However, it didn't take long for Salem to respond as junior stopper Taylor Gates bobbed and weaved her way up the middle for a breakaway goal on the ensuing possession to even the score at 1-1.
Following those two quick goals, it appeared as if the 1-1 score would hold at the half, but Emerson had other thoughts on her mind. The junior lined up in front of the net, took a corner pass from Jade Ah-low and notched her second goal of the game with 3:43 on the clock, which eventually resulted in the final score.
"Throughout the playoffs, she (Emerson) has been on fire. She works hard for every ball she gets. She'll run till the cows come home," said Whitewater girls' head coach Heather Allen.
The second half featured a defensive clinic with no action up the middle. Both teams used the sidelines to their advantage, which cut off any ready-made scoring opportunities. Salem had its chances to tie the contest, including a last-second effort deep in Whitewater territory, but a corner kick sailed wide of the net and out of bounds as time expired, thus ending its season.
"We missed some shots that we should have had. I feel they (Whitewater) made shots that they should not have had, but my girls worked hard and they did a great job," said Cheek. "There were a lot of opportunities on both ends. Defense does play a factor with them beating us to the ball and us trying to keep it on our side. We struggled in the second half as far as scoring. Our defense stepped it up, we just couldn't get the ball fall the way we wanted to in the goal."
Salem concludes the 2009 season with an overall record of 17-4 and 10-0 in Region 8-AAAA. Prior to Tuesday's loss, Salem had compiled a 10-game winning streak, dating back to a 10-0 rout over Monroe Area on March 18. The Lady Seminoles also clinched their fourth-straight league title and were a top-five state-ranked club throughout the year, climbing as high as No. 3 in the polls.
Despite losing four games, this was only the second time the team scored only one goal in a contest all season. The last instance also occurred in a defeat with Salem falling 2-1 versus Brookwood on Feb. 13.