After beginning the 2014 season 0-5-1, the Johnson girls soccer team wasn’t sure it could even make the Class AAAA state tournament. A midseason turnaround led to a 10-game winning streak and a matchup against Chamblee in the first round of the state playoffs on Wednesday, but the Lady Knights couldn’t continue their winning ways, falling 4-1 in Oakwood.
The Lady Bulldogs broke a 1-1 tie in the second half by scoring three goals in the final 28 minutes of play to pull away for the victory.
“Our touch was a little off and we had a couple of breakdowns,” Johnson coach Phil Higgins said, “They took advantage of our mistakes.”
Johnson (11-7-1) had some early chances to get on the board but spent a majority of the first half defending its own net, and Chamblee (11-5-1) drew first blood midway 18th minute on a goal from Louise McGirt.
The Lady Knights were able to match the goal with a tally of their own in the 32nd minute, as Logan Dumanowsky took a free kick that hit the Chamblee goalkeeper and bounced back before Chandler Steele put it home.
Johnson’s Hannah Hodge made a couple of point-blank saves towards the end of the half to preserve the tie, and the Lady Knights carried some momentum into the second half, but Chamblee’s defense was too strong.
“I think they came out a little more physical than us,” Higgins said. “I think that was the difference maker, especially by their midfield. They took advantage of the opportunities and we didn’t.”
The Lady Knights had some strong chances to take the lead early in the second half but couldn’t capitalize on them, leaving the door open for the Lady Bulldogs to take the lead.
Chamblee’s McGirt scored again in the 53rd minute in a one-on-one situation with Hodge to give her team a 2-1 advantage.
Less than 10 minutes later, the Bulldogs almost took a 3-1 lead as McGirt found Trenae Ferrell, who missed an open net. However, McGirt would take a shot minutes later that hit Hodge and bounced to Kerstin Thule, who knocked it in.
The Lady Knights were able to create more scoring chances of their own in the second half but couldn’t push past the Chamblee defense.
Chamblee tacked on its final goal with 37 seconds remaining.
“They played pretty good defense,” Higgins said. “They were able to get to the ball first a lot on defense and out check us to the ball.”
Johnson pulled together a string of blowout wins towards the end of the season, but the program still has yet to win a postseason game.
“I don’t think it’s representative of our season,” Higgins said. “We want to get this playoff win behind us. ... It’s a tougher region next year too, so hopefully that will forge us a little bit more and we will be tested.”
Higgins is already looking forward to offseason practices to improve from this year, and wants the players to remember “the sting” of a postseason loss to help propel them next season.
“Hopefully the underclassmen will remember how it feels and want to work a little harder in the summer and in the off season to get better,” he said.
The Lady Knights’ season is complete, while Chamblee will face the winner of Columbus and Northwest Whitfield in the second round.