The front of the warmup shirts for Jordan's girls soccer team has a single word on it: "Expectations."
Friday night at Woodruff, the 10th-ranked Red Jackets lived up to their expectations of themselves, scoring a pair of second-half goals to shut out Dade County, 2-0, in the opening round of the Class AA state playoffs.
"Winning this match tonight was the culmination of everything we've wanted to do as a program," said Jordan coach Sheri Green, whose team posted its ninth shutout of the season.
The win sends Jordan (14-1) into the second round of the state playoffs for the first time in school history. The Red Jackets will host No. 3 Westminster (8-6-3) in the next round, which will be played Wednesday. Westminster advanced to the second round by shutting out Union County, 8-0, in Blairsville Friday night.
"To get to the next round of the playoffs is amazing for me as a senior," said Jordan senior midfielder Parris Starks, who scored the Red Jackets' first goal. "We've been to the playoffs before, but we've never been able to win in the first round. Hopefully, this is something that our team can continue to build on even after I'm gone."
The match was scoreless at halftime, despite the Red Jackets spending the majority of the opening 40 minutes in Dade County's end of the pitch. Jordan outshot the Lady Wolverines, 5-3, in the first half, but Green felt her team could've done more to score the first goal.
"We played flat in the first half," said Green, whose team
has won 13 straight matches since its only loss, a 3-0 setback at Class AAAAA playoff qualifier Harris County on Feb. 26. "It's hard to explain, but we just didn't play like we normally play. We had more offensive chances than (Dade County) did, but we could've played a lot better."
In the second half, Dade County (11-6) got a pair of scoring opportunities as the match approached the 60-minute mark, but it was Starks who first found the back of the net in the 61st minute. Starks snuck in to the back post and put home a cross off the foot of Ramona Jones to give Jordan a lead it would never relinquish.
"We've been working hard on our crosses," said Starks, whose shot got past Dade County keeper Morgan Lacy and went into the left side of the net. "I just made sure to get to the back post and score off it. It feels so good to be able to play the way we did today."
Armed with a 1-0 lead, the Red Jackets leaned on its defensive corps, made up of seniors Lynnette Evans and Kayla Hasting, junior Kapua Mahuiki-Denson and sophomores Mana Mahuiki-Denson and Brittany Jordan, to hold its lead. Dade County only mustered seven shots for the match and rarely had a clear look at goalie Ayana Walker, who made four shutouts to finish with a clean sheet.
"We built our team around (the defensive players)," said Green. "The first day of practice, we found our defenders and they're why we are where we are. They don't get a lot of recognition outside of our team, but we know how well they've played for us."
Jordan added an insurance goal in the 69th minute on a strikingly similar play to Starks' goal. Derkita Johnson brought the ball up the right side of the pitch and lofted a cross into the penalty area, where Kaylynn Garcia-Zayas was open and waiting at the back post. Garcia-Zayas corralled the cross and sent her shot into the left side of the net to make it 2-0 and salt away the win for the Red Jackets.
"One of the reasons we've been so successful this season is that we've been tenacious," said Green. "We may not have a lot of players that have a dominant skill level, but the tenacity we play with adds up and wears on you. (Dade County) knew about (Jordan striker Undria Thomas), so they put two players on her. But we adjusted, kept playing tenaciously and it paid off for us."
Friday at Woodruff
Goals--Jordan: Parris Starks, Kaylynn Garcia-Zayas. Assists--Jordan: Ramona Jones, Derkita Johnson. Goalies--Dade County: Morgan Lacy 4 saves. Jordan: Ayana Walker 4 saves. Records--Dade County 11-6, Jordan 14-1. Next: No. 3 Westminster at No. 10 Jordan (Class AA State Playoffs Second Round) Wednesday, Time TBD.