Bainbridge’s No. 1 singles star Hilary Flournoy lets out a scream after clinching the game-winning point to advance the Lady Bearcats into the state’s Elite 8 round. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Bearcats soccer team loses state opener after historic season
BAINBRIDGE — Seniors Villecer Sarmiento and Josh Rivera stood outside of their locker room with smiles nearly as big as the legacy they left on the Bainbridge soccer field.
The duo’s career at Bainbridge ended Tuesday when the Bearcats lost their state tournament opener to Richmond Hill, 4-0, concluding the finest season in the history of the Bainbridge program.
Sure, the loss hurt. But talking about their historic season brought back the smiles.
“We have made a name for ourselves,” said Rivera, a starting midfielder. “They used to say, ‘Hey they are a little pushover team and we are going to stomp them, 10-0.’ We put our name on the map. We are known for soccer now.”
The Bearcats not only set a school record with 14 wins this season, but they hosted their first state playoff game — and they did it all with only three returning starters.
“When you are on this team, you are family,” said Sarmiento, a starting defender. “We put everything to the side and play together. We put our heads in the game and do what we got to do to win.”
The Bearcats, who ended their season 14-5 and were the No. 2 seed from Region 1-AAAA, did everything they needed to in the first half and went into halftime tied, 0-0. Twenty-five minutes into the second half, Richmond Hill (16-3) broke things open when Justin Carrillo scored the first of his two goals on a corner kick.
And then it all started to unravel for Bainbridge.
Jonathan Hatala scored two minutes later on a deflected ball that skidded into the corner of the goal, Carillo netted his second goal with 14:47 left in the game and Juwan Gaul scored with under a minute left to send Region 2-AAA No. 3 seed Richmond Hill to its sixth straight appearance in the second round.
“They put it in the back of the net to go up 1-0, and from there we lost a little bit of composure,” Bainbridge coach Jamie Ard said. “They got on the attack again, and my guy tried to clear it and it took an unfortunate bounce off a leg for the second goal. The first two goals we just got totally unlucky, and it kind of snowballed.”
Bainbridge goalkeeper Dominic Douglas made plenty of saves in the first half, and even got a little help from defender Kimani Crawford, who saved a shot himself after Douglas got temporarily beat by Gaul.
“The score wasn’t indicative of how close the game was,” Ard said. “(Richmond Hill) expected to come over here and win. I don’t know that other areas of the state respect teams in this area.”
This season was all about building a program and earning respect, and Rivera thinks the Bearcats did just that.
“(Richmond Hill) may have got the victory, but they are leaving here like, ‘Hey, they are a pretty good team. They weren’t some pushover team like everybody else described,’ “ Rivera said.
Rivera, Sarmiento and defender Quaman Reddick will be gone next season, but the other nine starters will be back — and Ard is already thinking about next season.
“I never dreamed that we would be where we are this year,” Ard said. “If everyone sticks around we will have a good nucleus next year. We will be OK.”
BAINBRIDGE — No. 3 singles player Anne Reynolds is developing a nickname around the Bainbridge tennis courts: “Clutch.”
The Lady Bearcats senior lived up to her reputation Tuesday afternoon — and her junior teammate Hilary Flournoy thrived under pressure, too.
Reynolds and Flournoy each won three-set matches in the second round of the GHSA Class AAAA state playoffs, leading the Lady Bearcats to a 3-2 victory against McIntosh. Bainbridge, which was a No. 1 seed after winning the Region 1-AAAA title, advances to the Elite 8 for the third time in school history and will travel to Region 2-AAAA champ Greenbrier on Friday.
No. 2 singles player Kristen Monson won (7-5, 5-1 retired), but the Lady Bearcats trailed, 2-1, when Reynolds and No. 1 singles player Flournoy began their third sets.
Bainbridge needed to win both matches for its season to continue — but coach Amy Thomas wasn’t worried.
“The level of electricity in the air was unreal, watching their third sets get started at the same time,” Thomas said. “I was very confident in both of them, but at the same time they were evenly matched.”
Playing against McIntosh’s Lauren Wilson, Reynolds dropped the opening set but came back to win, 3-6, 6-1, 6-1, while Flournoy cruised past McIntosh’s D’Asha Davis in the third set, winning 6-2, 6-7 (4), 6-1.
Reynolds, who played No. 3 singles for the 2010 state runner-up team, wasn’t fazed by losing the first set.
“No. 3 singles players play the most consistent players, so we have to be able to grind and stay out on the court for a long period of time,” Reynolds said. “I knew I could stay out here for as long as I needed to in the heat. Once I saw the other girl was tiring, I started moving her around a little more. I knew I had the edge then.”
Reynolds has had the edge in those types of matches her entire career at Bainbridge.
“It often comes down to Anne, and we call her our clutch player because we can count on her in tight matches,” Thomas said. “Anne is very steady. She plays her game, and she plays her game well.”
The empty No. 2 singles court separated Reynolds and Flournoy during their third sets, but they often cheered each other on as if they were doubles partners. They both jumped out to 1-0 leads and then almost simultaneously flipped over 2-1, then 4-1, and then finally 6-1.
“We were feeding off each other,” said Flournoy, who would occasionally glance over at Reynolds’ court and yell, “Let’s go Anne.” Reynolds would quickly respond with a “Let’s go Hilary.”
Reynolds raised her arms after her final point, trotted to the net for her post-match handshake and then watched with the rest of her teammates as Flournoy wrapped up her third set.
“When you win a third set, it’s the best feeling ever,” Flournoy said. “All the work that we have put in during practice has paid off, and you realize why you play.”
Winning against McIntosh, which made it to the second round of state last year and has played tough metro Atlanta opponents all season, made Tuesday afternoon even better.
“We had heard McIntosh was pretty good and played well against the metro Atlanta teams, so we didn’t know how we would do,” Reynolds said. “When we got out here and started playing with them, we were like, ‘We can do this.’ ”
Bainbridge fell behind 1-0 when the No. 1 doubles team of Kelly Brooks and Emma Kate Smith lost, 6-2, 6-1. Not long after that, the No. 2 doubles team of Meredith Conder and Lynsey Waddell put the Lady Bearcats in an 0-2 hole with a 6-4, 6-4, loss.
Now it’s off to Greenbrier, where the Lady Bearcats have dreams of making it to their second Final Four in the past three years.
“Preparation, preparation,” Reynolds said. “We are going to practice as hard as we can, because we know we are going to have another tough match Friday.”
MCINTOSH BOYS 3, BAINBRIDGE 0: The Bainbridge boys are back.
Thomas has heard the rally cry floating around all season, and she is confident the Bearcats’ trip to the Sweet 16 is only the start of something special.
The Region 1-AAAA champs were swept Tuesday by McIntosh for the second year in a row, but that didn’t change Thomas’ thoughts about the future.
“This is a start of something,” said Thomas, whose boys won the region title for the first time in six years. “Several of the parents keep saying, ‘We are back.’ That’s the way we feel. We are back, and next year we are going to improve.
“I feel like we definitely represented well this year, and I feel like on another day it could have gone a different way had we had a little bit more experience.”
Bainbridge’s hopes of knocking off last year’s state runner-up were quickly derailed when the No. 1 doubles team of Zach Poague and Jack Reynolds, the No. 2 doubles team of Nolan Lovering and Stone Inlow and No. 3 singles player Cole Bulger all lost in straight sets.
No. 1 singles player Hema Hasona and No. 2 singles player Mitchell Massengill both won their first sets but then lost 10-point tie breakers to play it out after McIntosh clinched the team victory.
“We had a great year,” said Hasona, a freshman who ended the season with an 11-3 record at No. 1 singles.
Hasona then added with a laugh: “We really wanted to make it further than the girls, but it looks like they got us this year.”