High School Sports

A Columbus girls soccer team is one match away from state finals

Two local girls soccer teams played Tuesday in the Georgia High School Association Class AAAA state quarterfinals. One of them won.

Columbus

After winning their first two rounds at home by a combined score of 21-2, the Region 1 first-seeded Columbus Blue Devils faced a more daunting task on the road at Region 6 first seed Heritage in Ringgold.

But the Blue Devils continued to dominate with a 6-1 victory.

Claudia Veliz, a sophomore, led the Columbus offense with two goals and one assist. Also scoring for the Blue Devils were freshman Ashley SaJous (one assist), junior Faith Knoedler, junior Vanessa Aviles and senior Abby Littleton, while junior Shayla Perrymond chipped in two assists.

“The goals we scored were very well-taken, a combination of good passing in the buildup and some great individual shots,” said Columbus head coach Catherine Lovin.

Columbus controlled the match so completely, senior goalkeeper Lizzie Hedrick notched the victory without needing to make a save. The Blue Devils totaled 25 shots.

“We played very composed and were patient, which I was happy about,” Lovin said. “We had some really nice finishes. We had a few issues that need to be cleaned up before our next game.”

Asked to specify those issues, Lovin said, “Some poor decision-making mainly in some situations.”

The Blue Devils (20-1) will play May 14 in the Class AAAA semifinals at Kinnett Stadium against Region 7 first seed Flowery Branch, starting at 6:30 p.m.

It will be the program’s first state semifinal since 2016, when the Blue Devils reached the Class AAAAA final before losing 4-0 to McIntosh.

“I’m very proud of the girls, and I’m excited we get to take the next step in the tournament,” said Lovin, in her third season as the Columbus head coach.

After dropping down to Class AAAA, Columbus went as far as the Sweet 16 in 2017 and the Elite Eight in 2018.

The lone loss for Columbus this season also was to McIntosh, which still is in Class AAAAA and also is in the semifinals. This time, the Blue Devils played McIntosh a lot closer, losing 3-2 in their regular-season finale. It seems to have served as good preparation for their run to the Class AAAA Final Four.

“McIntosh is a really good team,” Lovin said. “Having that tough test near the playoffs definitely helped give us an idea of the quality of opponent we’ll face, especially in this next game.”

Lovin called the Blue Devils “a special group of players and people. They have worked very hard throughout the year, and we’d love to have many people come support us on Tuesday.”

Northside

The Region 1 second-seeded Northside Patriots lost 10-0 at Region 8 first seed St. Pius X.

Ledger-Enquirer staff writer Mark Rice covers education and other issues related to youth. He also writes feature stories about any compelling topic. He has been reporting in Columbus and the Chattahoochee Valley for more than a quarter-century. He welcomes your local news tips and questions.
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