Sherwood girls soccer coach Jason Schultz, who is in his eighth year, led the Lady Eagles to their best season in school history, although it ended one win shy of the GISA Final Four, which would've been a first for SCA.
ALBANY — That one goal — the one that could have changed the moment, the game and the season — simply never came.
It hung there like the horizon, just beyond Sherwood Christian’s reach — just a little beyond these kids who had redefined soccer at SCA, the ones who wanted to rewrite the history books and stamp their name on the program.
They did all that and more this season, but on a sun-drenched Friday evening they saw the dream and an unforgettable run end when the Lady Eagles did everything but score in a heartbreaking, 2-0, loss to Frederica at Darton State College in the Elite 8 round of the GISA Class AA girls soccer state playoffs.
“If we could have scored that first goal, I think it would have been different,’’ said SCA girls soccer coach Jason Schultz, who watched his kids dominate the game in the second half without scoring.
But there was no daylight at the end of a long tunnel in the second half that was filled with one drive after another for SCA. Sherwood trailed 2-0 at halftime and then out-shot Frederica, 9-2, in the second half, and those were only shots on goal. There were four more that sailed wide or short. Almost the entire second half was played on Frederica’s half of the field.
“They’re a real good team,’’ said Frederica coach Christy Barrow, whose program is a perennial state power. “This is the first team we’ve played this year that was evenly matched with us. It was a neck-and-neck game.”
Barrow then added: “They (just kept coming at us in the second half). They had a lot of opportunities, but our defense was amazing. That’s the best they’ve played all year.’’
That’s what it took to keep Sherwood out of the net.
With about 25 minutes left in the game, SCA’s Jordyn Paramore, who broke the Lady Eagles’ school record with 26 goals this season, bent home a corner kick that was destined to find the back of the net, but Frederica’s Claire Seymore made a leaping catch to keep SCA out. The ball was cleared but seconds later Hannah King sent a lightning bolt shot from the right side. Seymore dove to her knees and somehow made the save.
That’s what it took to keep SCA scoreless.
The Lady Eagles kept control and created opportunity after opportunity, but that magic goal never came.
“If just one of those (shots) goes in it changes the momentum and it could have opened up the floodgates,’’ Schultz said.
His kids felt the same.
“If we would have scored on one of those we would have had hope and then No. 2 and No. 3 would have followed that first goal,’’ said Diamond Clarke, who played a magnificent game on defense. “We would have had the momentum and we would have scored more goals.’’
It ended in frustration after so many opportunities.
“It was definitely a hard game,’’ said King, a sophomore. “I knew if we just kept pushing through that we could win it. But God has a plan for all of us, and this loss will make us stronger in the future.’’
A slow start hurt Sherwood.
Frederica’s Madi Bush sliced in a shot from about 15 yards out in the 14th minute of the game to lift Frederica to a 1-0 lead, and then Bush added a goal with 5:26 left in the half when she buried a penalty kick into the left corner of the net after SCA was called for a handball in the box.
“If we would have played the first half the way we played the second half, I think we would have won,’’ Schultz said. “We just came out flat. We were standing around. Everything we did against Gatewood (in the opening round of the playoffs) we didn’t do in the first half.’’
Destiny Allen, a senior defender and one of the team leaders, said Sherwood should have come out stronger.
“We didn’t play our game in the first half,’’ Allen said. “That’s been our problem the whole season. But usually we come back and fix it in the second half.’’
SCA finishes the best season in its history with a 19-5-1 record and falls just short of becoming the first team from Sherwood to advance to the Final Four.
“We really wanted to make history and become the first team to reach the semis,’’ said Schultz with pain in his voice. “We were hoping to play on May 11 (in the state final). I wasn’t prepared to give an end of the year speech.’’
The Lady Eagles lose only two seniors — albeit incredibly talented ones — and the future of the program has the-sky-is-the-limit potential.
“I think the program is peaking and we are going to go even higher,’’ King said. “This has been a great season.’’
This team turned the program around, and things will never be the same at Sherwood, where the girls soccer program is now considered a powerhouse.
“Oh, heck yeah,’’ said Clarke, one of the two seniors. “This season changed everything. We had such a great season. I played three years, and this was the best team. I love the sport. I love the people I played with. It’s been really great. It’s really bittersweet.’’
The kids left in tears, walking hand-in-hand with heartbreak after putting together a season they will never forget and seeing it end so abruptly.
“This is the best team I’ve played on and I’ve been playing for five years,’’ said Allen, who started as an eighth-grader. “This team was more unified and more skilled. It was the best team ...”