For the Columbus High girls soccer team this postseason, there has been no place like home.
The Lady Blue Devils have outscored their first two state playoff opponents 12-1 while playing at the friendly confines of the Walden Soccer Complex at Columbus State University.
Now, thanks to a timely road victory by the Heritage-Catoosa Lady Generals, No. 4 Columbus (16-4) gets to play at home again today against No. 8 Heritage-Catoosa (13-1) in the Georgia High School Association Class AAA state quarterfinals. The match is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m.
"(Columbus coach Russell Oliver) told us that we always need to be the first team to score and always be the first player to the ball," said Columbus junior defender Ivey Burbrink. "That way, you don't let a team get confidence that they can beat you. If you take away a team's confidence, you won't lose to teams you shouldn't lose to."
The winner of the Columbus vs. Heritage match will take on No. 7 Oconee County (16-3-1) or No. 1 St. Pius X (17-1-1) in the semifinals May 16. Columbus is aiming for its second final four berth in the past three seasons.
Columbus steamrolled Eastside, 10-0, in its second-round match Wednesday, netting two goals in the opening 10 minutes and building a 5-0 lead by halftime. The Lady Blue Devils added five more goals in the second half to end the match early via the mercy rule.
Four players -- Mallory Lotz, Madison See, Abby Roth and Mary Helen Callier -- scored two goals apiece, and Nikiay Comer and Burbrink added one goal each. For the match, Columbus outshot Eastside 34-3, and the Lady Blue Devils' goalie duo of Anna Scogin and Lauren Grantham had to make only two saves to help Columbus post its 10th shutout of the season.
"We've always tried to go through situations in practice to where our kids can be successful in matches," Oliver said. "But our kids just have great instincts and skills, and that comes out in our matches."
The Lady Blue Devils still had several starters on the field when the match was well in hand -- though they were playing in different positions -- but Oliver said the short turnaround time between playoff matches made it necessary to keep his starters in the game.
"With only two days of practice between matches, it's hard to simulate what goes on in a match," Oliver said. "Every minute on the field is worth an hour of practice time. You have to worry about a player getting injured
when the match is already won, but you have to balance that risk with them needing to be ready for the next round of the playoffs."
While Columbus was throttling Eastside, Heritage went on the road to Kathleen (just outside Warner Robins) and beat No. 10 Veterans 3-0 in the second round.
Heritage, which is in just its fourth year of existence, scored in the second minute of the match and added another eight minutes later to open up a 2-0 advantage.
Heritage's quest to pull off the road win got a boost in the 31st minute when Veterans' leading scorer, Khayla Owens, was shown a red card, leaving the Warhawks a player down the remainder of the match.
The Generals added an insurance goal in the 54th minute to close out the scoring and advance to a matchup with Columbus.
"It is something special for us," said Heritage coach Stacy Dunfee told the Macon Telegraph. "We knew that Veterans was a quality team and that it was important to play well early. That's exactly what we did."
Columbus and Heritage have just one opponent in common: the third-ranked Allatoona Buccaneers (17-2-1). Columbus beat Allatoona 3-2 March 17 in Acworth and Heritage lost to the Buccaneers 4-0 in Acworth three days later.