ATLANTA --- Deerfield-Windsor boys and girls soccer coach Aly Joslin may be in just his second year with the program, but make no mistake --- this isn't his first trip to the rodeo.
The former pro player in England and longtime youth coach knows how to get prepared for a big game, and the two biggest games of either teams' season is upon them this afternoon.
A daunting GISA Class AAA Elite 8 state playoff showdown against Region 1, No. 1 seeds Holy Spirit Prep awaits today in Atlanta, where Joslin brought his teams 24 hours early on Sunday night for a variety of reasons.
"The girls play at 1:30 p.m. (today) and the boys right after, so we wanted to avoid leaving early in the morning, plus we had a chance to come up (Sunday night) and take in an Atlanta Beat (pro soccer) game, and I felt it was a good chance for the teams to bond, relax and get a good night's rest before the big games," said Joslin, whose Knights (9-8) enter as a No. 2 seed after beating No. 3 Augusta Prep, 1-0, in the Sweet 16 last week, while the Lady Knights (12-4-1) are also a No. 2 seed and beat No. 3 Trinity Christian, 4-1, last week. "It's also nice we're both playing the same team, so they'll be here supporting each other."
The girls may have the better record of the two DWS squads coming in, but their road my be tougher. They lost senior leader Lauren Fulford last week to her second ACL tear in as many seasons. Joslin said that means the Lady Knights will have to revert back to the scheme they started with at the beginning of the season when Fulford was still recovering from her last ACL tear, missing the first eight games. DWS went 4-3-1 without Fulford in the lineup and 8-1 when she played.
"No one person can take on Lauren's role. She will be missed," Joslin said. "But the girls are prepared (after a week of practice without Lauren) and I think we have several players ready to step up."
Candace Cosby and Lacey Kincheloe lead the girls squad in scoring with 20 goals each this season, while Jonathan Jones leads the boys with 14. Joslin, however, said his scouting report on Holy Spirit tells him it will be tough for Jones --- or any of his guys --- to score on the No. 1 seed.
"They've got the best goalkeeper in the state from what I hear, so it's going to be hard because they play a high-pressure game (on the offensive end)," said Joslin, who will have to hope his goalie, Don Scozzari, can come up with a performance like he had last week when he held Augusta Prep to one goal. "And the (Holy Spirit) girls play a fast-paced game and we're just going to have to adjust without Lauren in there."
The girls team made it to this same point in the playoffs last year, but were knocked out, while the boys went 2-15 in 2010 and missed the playoffs altogether. Joslin said he would like to be happy just reaching this point, but with both squads so close to the Final Four, he isn't satisfied with moral victories.
"They've both had great seasons, but by (this time tomorrow), I hope to be talking about us winning and preparing for the Final Four next week," he said.