Columbus soccer ready for "hardest" test against Marist in state final

dmitchell@ledger-enquirerMay 16, 2013 

The Columbus High girls soccer team holds no delusions about what it is up against in the Class AAAA final on Friday.

It is David versus Goliath, for lack of a better description. Players know Marist will without doubt be the toughest opponent they’ve faced all year. The team is 20-0-1 and has allowed just 12 goals all season.

Rather than worry about the outcome in the game, which begins at 5 p.m. at the University of West Georgia, the Lady Blue Devils (16-5) look forward to another opportunity to finish on top.

“We know this is going to be the hardest one,” senior defender Ivey Burbrink said on Wednesday. “We couldn’t be more excited, though. We want to win this one. We want to finish it off.”

Especially after last season when the team couldn’t quite finish off its magical run. It lost in the Class AAA final to Allatoona. That experience, and countless others, has the team believing that it will have a fighting chance on Friday.

“We’ve done everything we can do to prepare,” coach Rusty Oliver said. “I know we can play with anyone in the state. On paper, most people are probably chalking this up to Marist. We’re not.”

Oliver pointed toward his team’s losses. Of the five, one came against a defending state champion, two came against teams playing for a title in Class AAAAA and one came against a team playing for a title in Class AAA.

“We’ve played an incredibly tough schedule,” Oliver said. “We did that for a reason.”

The reason is so that it would be prepared for a team that plays together year round and understands what it takes to win at the highest level.

Marist is strong in its passing, quick and aggressive. It practices with first-class facilities and with a full staff of position coaches, who can devote time to helping girls in specific areas.

Columbus’ resources are more limited in practice, so it focused on improving against top-notch competition.

“You look at the teams we’ve played, the teams we’ve beaten and shut out, we know we can compete with Marist,” Lane Burbrink said.

Oliver said this was a game he hoped and maybe even expected his team to play in. He nor the players took anything for granted but, despite talk to the contrary outside the program, they knew they had the talent to make it again.

“I told them on day one that they could play at state again if we played up to our ability,” Oliver said. “They’ve done it.”

Almost.

All that’s left is a win in the final. Marist, which has outscored its opponents 35-0 in the four playoff games, will not make that easy.

If the first step is believing they belong, though, the Lady Blue Devils are on their way.

“We’ve earned this,” Ivey Burbrink said. “We’ve worked hard to be here. We know we will have to play at our absolute best and we can’t get too hyped going into the game. We just need to stay calm and play our game. The rest will take care of itself.”

David Mitchell, 706-571-8571; Follow David on Twitter @leprepsports.

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