Deerfield goalkeeper Don Scozarri posted his second straight shutout in the state playoffs Wednesday when the Knights blanked Augusta Prep, 1-0. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
ALBANY — There were tears of joy and tears of sorrow shed on the Deerfield-Windsor soccer field Wednesday.
When the No. 1-seeded Lady Knights — who had legitimate state-title aspirations heading into the season — were upset, 2-1, by Westminster in Wednesday’s first game of the GISA Class AAA Elite 8 round of the state playoffs, there wasn’t a dry eye on the team after the clock struck zero. But a little more than two hours later, Knight Nation’s spirits were lifted when the DWS boys advanced with a thrilling 1-0 overtime victory against Augusta Prep.
Talk about mixed emotions.
“I don’t know how to feel right now,” third-year DWS boys and girls coach Aly Joslin said after both games were over. “I’m so proud of my boys because this team was 1-15 two years ago and just 9-9 last year, and now we’re in the Final Four. I just felt this was a girls team that could win it all this year, so it’s a great day, but it’s also a tough day.”
Joslin was among those with the waterworks in full flood mode as he addressed the Lady Knights following their stunning loss, then shared an embrace each of his four seniors — Katie Williams, Candace Cosby, Mackenzie Davis and Payton Hudson. But the coach quickly regained his composure and headed back to the sidelines for the boys game, which ended 0-0 after regulation and wasn’t settled until leading scorer Jonathan Jones found the back of the net with one minute left in overtime.
“John picked up the ball about 18 yards out and just chipped it in,” said Joslin, whose mood was lightened not only by the heart-stopping victory, but also by another aspect of Jones’ goal that left he and his players laughing all the way to the next round. “What’s funny about J.J.’s goal is that he kicked it in with his left foot — and we tease him all the time because he never uses his left foot.”
One week after DWS cruised in its first-round game against Trinity, 8-0, goalie Don Scozarri posted yet another shutout for the Knights, who improved to 14-3 overall.
DWS’ boys will now travel to Macon on Saturday to face Stratford with a trip to the title game on the line. The two teams met once already this season with Stratford winning, 3-0.
The Lady Knights (15-2-1), meanwhile, saw their dream season — one which had just a single loss coming into Wednesday’s game — come crashing down after DWS jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the 21st minute of the first half on a goal by freshman Haley Kincheloe.
Deerfield appeared to be in control at that point as Westminster — which won state two years ago and features a UGA signee, Kara Smith, as its star player — was turned away again and again by Williams, the Lady Knights’ senior goalkeeper and a Birmingham Southern signee.
But when Nina McCauley snuck one past Williams with two minutes to go before halftime, the Lady Knights seemed shell-shocked — and simply never recovered. Francis Plunkett would score the game-winner on Williams with just six minutes left in the game on a strange shot even she couldn’t explain.
“I wish I knew (how I ended up with the ball in front of me),” Plunkett said. “My sister (Anna) bounced it out of a pack of people and placed it perfect.”
Westminster coach Mike Freace was happy with Plunkett’s goal, but even happier with his team’s defense against DWS.
“Other than that first goal, we didn’t give them a lot of chances,” he said. “I think we did a good job shutting them down.”
Williams gave credit to Plunkett for her great shot — she just wished she didn’t have to.
“She hit it 90 degrees at the upper part of the net and at an angle where there was nothing I could do,” Williams said as she fought back tears. “It sucks, to put it bluntly, that our season is over. We just couldn’t get it done. I guess I still can’t believe that I’ll never get to play with these girls again. We all became best friends.”
Joslin had a harder time coming to grips with how his team — which won its opener, 12-0, against Trinity — failed to muster much offense after its early score. DWS had just four total shots on goal after that.
“We sat back too deep and we didn’t step to the ball. All week we practiced on ways to shut down Kara and winning second balls because we knew that was their strengths. But you have to play for 80 minutes, and we didn’t do that (Wednesday),” he said. “At the end of the day, I couldn’t ask much more from this group of girls, especially the seniors, and what they gave me this year. It was a tremendous season. We just came up a little short.”