The Darton State College women’s soccer team celebrates after beating Georgia Perimeter on Saturday in the Region XVII Championship game in Albany, 4-0. (Doug Cantrell/Special to The Herald)
ALBANY — Ken Veilands has been on the sidelines for 12 region titles and has hoisted five Region XVII championship trophies.
The Darton women’s soccer coach even won a men’s region championship in 2002.
But nothing compared to what his Lady Cavs did Saturday afternoon when they stunned Georgia Perimeter in the Region XVII Championship, 4-0.
“It’s like watching your own children grow up before your own eyes,” Veilands said.
Darton (13-5), which began the season with a 4-5 record and plenty of questions, continued its remarkable turnaround by winning its ninth game in a row and punching its ticket to the national tournament for the second straight year.
Georgia Perimeter came into the game ranked No. 10 in the country, undefeated and with two wins against Darton in the regular season, but Saturday’s victory was one that Veilands saw coming from the moment he stepped on the field.
“They convinced me that they wanted to win, and they were willing to pay the price,” Veilands said. “With that ... you can’t go wrong. We have 21 girls on that sideline who are ready to go to war and battle, and they did.”
The Lady Cavs got their first goal in the opening four minutes when sophomore Chihiro Hikita scored on the team’s first shot on goal, and then freshmen Laura Nelson gave Darton some cushion with 19:56 left in the half when she scored on a broken defensive play by Georgia Perimeter.
But it was a through ball with 14:28 left in the first half that Shenika Williams chased down and punched in the back of the net, giving Darton a 3-0 lead that looked insurmountable.
“I knew it was over (after the third goal),” sophomore Kimberly Treutel said. “After that I just couldn’t stop smiling. I just wanted time to speed up.”
She stopped the clock briefly with 2:49 left in the second half when she lifted a shot just over the outstretched hands of Georgia Perimeter goalkeeper Rose Okechukwu for the game’s final goal.
“That was kind of like a boo-yah to Perimeter because they are our No. 1 rival,” Treutel said. “That goal as a sophomore in my last time playing them, it just felt amazing. Just watching them walk off the field while we were celebrating — as mean as that sounds — it felt good.”
The Lady Cavs, who avenged their season-opening loss to South Georgia with a 3-1 semifinal win Friday, had lost to Perimeter, 1-0 and 4-2, in the regular season. And now a trip to the national tournament, where Darton was runner-up last season, could help the Lady Cavs avenge a 2-0 regular season loss to No. 1 Brevard.
“I believe anything can happen. I still believe the best is yet to come. I think that we can do some things,” Veilands said. “I told the girls that our goal was to climb the ladder. We wanted to get South Georgia back, get Georgia Perimeter back and then get Brevard back.”