CONYERS - The Heritage and Salem girls soccer teams will meet for the second time in two weeks today, but this time the stakes are even higher.
The Lady Seminoles (11-2-1) will host the Lady Patriots (13-2) in the Region 8-AAAA semifinals at 5:30 p.m. today at Reid Memorial Stadium. Salem won the first meeting 2-0 on March 28 with goals from Taylor Gates and Caitlyn Cofer.
At stake tonight are a trip to the Region 8-AAAA championship game and the guarantee of a home game in the first round of the state playoffs.
"Absolutely, it's going to be a big rematch on Friday, playing Heritage again. The girls are excited about it. It's going to be another tough game just like last time," Salem coach Heather Richardson said. "The girls understand what they have to do and what it means for us as far as seeding for the state playoffs. It's always good to have that No. 1 seed (from the region), so that's what we're fighting for."
The Lady Seminoles are shooting for a third-straight region title.
For Heritage, tonight's game is a chance to get some revenge.
"The first game kind of left a bitter taste in our mouth. We didn't play our best game and we had all the drama with my red card and Megan Drish's red card," Heritage coach Chad Suddeth said. "Although they outplayed us from a possession standpoint, it was a close game. It's definitely a challenge to play them again.
"Normally a break is bad for a team, but I think the break has helped us a lot. We seemed to be re-energized and have our legs back under us. Individually, we know we what have to do against them. We've seen and lived it for 80 minutes. We have a chance to play them again, but this time there's a lot more on the line."
In the boys semifinals, Salem (11-2-1) didn't know its next opponent until last night. Dacula beat Loganville 7-0 to advance into today's semifinal at 7:30 p.m. at Reid.
But that didn't bother Salem boys coach Sean DeWeese.
"If we go out and play our game, as long as we set the pace and play the game we're capable of, we're going to be OK," DeWeese said. "The week off for spring break is always a concern. Everyone comes back kind of rusty. We practiced (Thursday) and looked really good."
The Heritage boys (11-4) have drawn the tough assignment of traveling to Mount Airy to face No. 6 Habersham Central (14-1-1) in the other semifinal.
It's a rematch of last year's region title game, which was won by the Raiders 6-0. Habersham Central also won this year's meeting 1-0 in Mount Airy back in mid-February.
"We're a lot different team now than we were back in February," Heritage coach Mike Beshiri said.
Jeff Gillespie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SideBar: 8-AAAA Playoffs
Heritage at Habersham Central, 6 p.m.
Dacula at Salem (Reid Stadium), 7:30 p.m.
Heritage at Salem (Reid Stadium), 5:30 p.m.