GCHS soccer is on the rise

By Justin Hubbard

 

Greene County’s boys soccer team will not get the finish the Tigers deserve.

At least, that’s my assessment of the matter. The Tigers are 5-7 as I write this column early Tuesday afternoon. They’re a few hours away from taking on Athens Christian. Next, they will face Lake Oconee Academy this Friday and Lincoln County next Tuesday.

They will not earn a postseason bid. There are no region tournaments in GHSA soccer, so there’s no way for them to play their way into the state tournament.

Greene’s boys are effectively done, and it’s a shame.

I would be lying if I said the Tigers are the best team in our area. The truth is, that title belongs to either of the boys teams at Morgan County or Putnam County, which have both emerged as heavyweights this year.

But the Tigers are a talented bunch, featuring a good blend of seniors and underclassmen. They have fought tooth and nail all year. I’ve seen it with my own eyes.

Their overtime win over George Walton Academy was nothing short of exhilarating. I am not a soccer fan but even I found myself on the edge of my seat during that game. Well, figuratively speaking – I was down on the sideline taking pictures of the action.

The Greene-Morgan game held March 15 was a physical, contentious battle despite what the scoreboard showed. The Bulldogs won, 4-0, but that game was knotted up at zero for a long time and Morgan did not score until after it had worn down the Greene players.

That loss gave the Tigers a two-game losing streak and, except for a 3-1 win over Washington-Wilkes, they haven’t really recovered. The result is a season that will end with the final regular season game instead of a postseason appearance that seemed likely just a month or so ago.

There’s no need for the players to hang their heads, though. They never gave up despite their struggles. That was on full display last Friday when they fell into a two-goal hole against Athens Academy.

It seemed like the deficit lit a fire under the Tigers as they desperately tried to tie up the game and win on senior night. The Spartans had effectively controlled the game at that point but, once they went up by two, the Tigers found ways to generate consistent pushes to Athens Academy’s side of the field. The Spartans were fortunate to hang onto their advantage.

I’d planned to interview a few of the team’s seniors after the game. Head coach Dan Whelan picked out three of the guys and told them ahead of time I wanted to speak with them. They actually came up and found me – which, if I’m being honest, surprised me considering they’d just lost their senior night game. I thought I’d be the last person they’d want to talk to at that point but there they were, ready for me to ask them questions.

Whelan told me afterward that the seniors provide the team’s motivational leadership. I saw that for myself in that postgame setting.

If the players returning next year have the same attitude I saw from Cristian Garcia, Adrian Soto and Juan Lopez, then the Tigers are in good hands.

I know those guys are really talented, too, which will obviously help the Tigers overcome the loss of their seniors. Sophomore Alfredo Flores-Martinez has four goals this year, tied with Garcia for the team-high. Fellow sophomores Jesus Soto and Thomas Moody have three and two goals, respectively, and I’ll stop there because if I list the superlatives of all the team’s players, we’ll be here all day.

The point is these Tigers were among the toughest teams in Class A this year. They were outscored only 29-21 entering play this week, which is a very respectable ratio. They were beaten several times but the wins did not come easy for their opponents. They’ve got a shot to finish the year on a winning streak because of their tenacity.

Whelan has the boys soccer program headed in the right direction, thanks in large part to his simultaneous cultivation of the middle school team, and that should excite the team’s fans.

The Tigers aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

Rate this article: 
Average: 1 (4 votes)
Breaking News: 
No