CONYERS - If today's Class AAAA girls soccer quarterfinal playoff game between Salem and Starr's Mill was a boxing match, it would draw top billing in Las Vegas.
The Lady Seminoles (15-2-1) will square off with the Lady Panthers (11-3-1) in a clash of Class AAAA heavyweights today at 5 p.m. at Reid Memorial Stadium. Salem enters the game ranked No. 5 in Class AAAA, while Starr's Mill's ranked No. 4.
The stakes are extremely high. The winner advances to the Class AAAA semifinals next Wednesday.
With all that on the line, Salem coach Heather Richardson is looking for an intense battle.
"I expect this to be a very intense, high-paced game," she said. "I really feel like our fans will be watching a very exciting game."
Starr's Mill is deceiving as a No. 4 seed out of Area 2-AAAA, arguably the toughest Class AAAA girls soccer region in the state. The Lady Panthers have had no problem so far in the postseason, dispatching Dutchtown, a No. 1 seed, 8-0 in the first round and Lakeside-Evans, a No. 2 seed, 3-1 in the second round.
"Starr's Mill was the fourth-place team in an extremely tough region and they are currently ranked fourth in 4-A soccer," Richardson said. "They are a very strong team with a lot of talent."
Salem has cruised to a pair of 3-0 victories so far in the playoffs, beating North Springs in the first round and eliminating Chapel Hill in the second round. The Lady Seminoles, who captured the Area 8-AAAA crown for the third time this season, are riding the wave of a seven-game win streak, which started with a 2-0 victory over county rival Heritage on March 28.
Salem and Starr's Mill have played two common opponents this year. They both blanked Chapel Hill, with the Lady Panthers posting a 4-0 victory.
Both squads lost to Whitewater. Salem fell 3-2 after losing in penalty kicks, while Starr's Mill dropped a 2-0 decision.
"Some of the keys for our team against Starr's Mill will be, of course, to play with a lot of intensity and pressure all of the field the entire game," Richardson said. "But more importantly, it will be key for the girls to have confidence in themselves and in their teammates. It will also be very important for us to make the most of our set plays.
"Composure is very important in this round. I think it is very similar to confidence. We have to play with composure no matter which way the momentum of the game is going."
Jeff Gillespie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
· What: Quarterfinals of the Class AAAA girls state soccer tournament
· Who: Salem Lady Seminoles vs. Starr's Mill Lady Panthers
· When: Today 5 p.m.
· Where: Reid Memorial Stadium