Strong second half comes up short

CONYERS - The difference between winning and losing in the semifinals is often the smallest of margins.

Such was the case for the Salem girls soccer team against No. 2-ranked Whitewater in the Class AAAA semifinals on Tuesday at Seminole Stadium.

Down 2-1 late in the first half, the No. 3-ranked Lady Seminoles had 43 minutes to find the equalizer, but could not, despite dominating long stretches of the second half.

"I feel like they won a couple of balls that we should have, I feel like we that missed a couple shots that we shouldn't have," Salem coach Heather Cheek said. "But my girls worked hard and they did a great job."

Salem's best scoring chance in the second came with 28:14 left in the game when Brittany Beaumont whistled a free kick from 30 yards just over the crossbar.

With 12:03 remaining, Taylor Gates powered her free kick through the Whitewater wall, but it squirted along the ground wide of the far post.

Even in the final minute, Salem had opportunities.

Beaumont missed on a free kick with 48 ticks left, and Ashley Miller had a desperation corner kick with just five seconds remaining.

"We just struggled in the second half as far as scoring," Cheek said. "I think our defense really stepped it up in the second half. We shut them down, but we just couldn't get the ball to fall the way we wanted it to."

SideBar: Quick hits

· WEATHER NO PROBLEM: Cheek said the Lady Seminoles had no problem with the humid conditions.

"I think they were OK with the weather," she said. "In the first half, it was kind of warm. In the second half, it cooled down and I think it gave us a little bit of an advantage."

· CORNER CRAZY: The two squads combined for 13 corner kicks with Salem having a 7-6 edge. In fact, the Lady Seminoles had two in the opening two minutes of the game. However, neither squad converted any of their chances.

"There were a lot of opportunities on both ends as far as corner kicks go," Cheek said.

· STREAK ENDS AT 10: The loss ended Salem's winning streak at 10 games. It also marked the first time the Lady Seminoles have surrendered more than one goal since a 3-2 win over McIntosh on March 21.

· INTENSE SECOND HALF: After only seven total fouls in the first half, the two teams combined for 16 fouls and three yellow cards in the final 40 minutes.

· ONLY TWO: Taylor Gates' goal for Salem was just the second surrendered by Whitewater in four postseason games.