Darton State College’s Stephanie Anes of England leads the Lady Cavaliers soccer team into a showdown today with South Georgia College as the two squads meet today in the semifinals of the Region XVII Tournament. Anes has scored eight goals this year. (David Mann/Darton State College)
Want To Go?
WHO: No. 3 seed South Georgia College at No. 2 seed Darton College.
WHAT: Region XVII women’s soccer tournament, semifinals.
WHEN: 6 p.m. today.
AT STAKE: Winner plays in championship game Saturday at 2 p.m. against the winner of Ga. Perimeter-ABAC.
ALBANY — Kimberly Treutel hasn’t forgotten the way the Lady Cavs opened the season.
The Darton sophomore remembers the sting all too well.
“I remember crying,” Treutel said, referring to Darton’s season opening loss to South Georgia on Aug. 29. “It was a shock. I remember thinking, ‘How did we just lose a game after last year when we went to nationals?’ ”
The Lady Cavs, winners of seven in a row, now get a chance to avenge their program’s only loss to South Georgia in today’s Region XVII semifinal game at Darton, where the two teams face off for a spot in Saturday’s semifinal against either No. 10 Georgia Perimeter or ABAC.
“I’m not going to let that happen ever again, especially not on our field,” said Treutel, who has five goals and one assist this season. “I know every girl on this team will fight (today). That’s our only option.”
A win today wouldn’t just keep Darton’s championship hopes alive and avenge the season-opening loss, it would continue an incredible comeback story for the Lady Cavs, who started the year 4-5 before rattling off seven straight wins.
The season-opening loss to South Georgia stunned both the Darton players and Lady Cavs coach Ken Veilands, who told The Herald after the setback that it was a huge disappointment to the program.
Fast forward two months, and Veilands believes his team has a chance to put an exclamation point on the greatest turnaround in the history of the program.
“If we can win this weekend … this will be the best progression I have ever been a part of from where it started with all the different pieces and making it come together at the end,” Veilands said Thursday. “If we can get to the finals and pull it off, it would make me feel really good about what we have accomplished.”
Darton’s seven-game winning streak included a 2-0 victory at South Georgia, but now the Lady Cavs are back home and back on the field where it all started. And freshman Stephanie Anes, a native of England who has eight goals this season, believes her team is nothing like the group that began the season.
“From where we started off to where we are now is a massive difference,” Anes said. “We have got stuff together, and we got the show on the road. We are working as a team, and we got there.”
Veilands said piecing together a team full of role players and not relying on one go-to scorer was key in turning the season around.
“You have to develop a mentality to win and learn how to push that extra mile to be successful,” he said. “That ends up separating your better teams from the others, and this team has figured out how to win once they realized it wouldn’t be just one person.”
Four players have scored at least eight goals for the Lady Cavs — Shenika Williams (14), Megan Thomas (13), Chihiro Kikita (9) and Anes (8) — and goalkeeper Tori Danchak has allowed just 12 goals in 15 games.
The Lady Cavs are two wins away from a second straight region title and the program’s fifth overall, and because of new NJCAA rules, region champions automatically advance to the national tournament, which will be held this year in Melbourne, Fla.
The Lady Cavs haven’t lost since Sept. 24 when they fell to Georgia Perimeter in Atlanta, and Veilands knows that a win today against South Georgia likely sets up a championship rematch against No. 1 seed Georgia Perimeter.
“We will be challenged. We know that,” Veilands said. “I feel like we are physically ready. I think we have a rotation we are comfortable with, and I feel like we are fitter than anybody else in the conference.”