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Heritage girls battle to tie in top-10 match up

CONYERS -- Neither team was able to gain an upper hand as eurosportscoreboard.com Class AAAAA No. 6-ranked Lakeside, DeKalb and the No. 7-ranked Lady Patriots battled to a scoreless tie at Heritage on Tuesday.

"Two top-10 teams; two perennial state playoff contenders, I had a feeling it was going to be a nail-biter," Heritage head coach Chad Suddeth said. "They're good in preparing us for region. It's a fairly close proximity to each other so maybe it'll turn into a renewed rivalry. But it turned out like I thought it would."

While the game ended in a tie, it was not because of lack of offensive aggressiveness of the Lakeside (7-1, 3-0 in 6-AAAAA) girls. However, no matter how many times Lakeside attacked and tried to score, the Lady Patriots (7-1-2, 3-0 in 8-AAAAA) defense rose to the challenge again and again.

"We're lucky to have a solid back four. Some of that had to do with the wind in the second half, we had a big wind in our face so we had to adjust to that. They kept us on our toes," Suddeth said.

The Heritage offense also had opportunities to put the ball in the net but indecisiveness allowed the Lady Vikings defense to get into position.

Heritage's best chance in the first half came when the Lady Vikings keeper misplayed the ball, giving the striker an open goal. But rather than taking the shot, she tried to get closer, allowing defender Emma Shaffer to put the ball out of play.

"We left a couple of goals out there for sure that we'd like to convert," Suddeth said. "We have two freshman strikers and that inexperience shows at times. Sometimes they have to release the ball a little bit earlier and find that window."

Heritage's other chance to take the lead came with just more than seven minutes left in the game when Abby Dunlop had a free kick kick.

"When it came off her foot I thought it had a chance," Suddeth said. "I don't know, maybe the wind pushed it a little bit. But she can strike the ball just as good as anybody."

Also proving her worth in the back field was Heritage keeper Mady Carter, who got her seventh shutout of the season. Carter gambled several times by attacking the ball but each time it was the right decision.

"She's elite and proved that again. Another shutout against a quality team," Suddeth said.

While the defense shut down a team that has been averaging more than two and a half goals a game, there was still for concern for the Heritage coach.

"We have to tighten some things up defensively," Suddeth said. "We lost our shape a little bit and opened up some passing lanes for them. I have to look at film and clean some of that up. Some was because our outside backs were stepping a little too high, putting us in a high-risk situation. It's decision-making and field awareness.

"We gave up too many corner kicks, too. We learned Friday night against Flowery Branch that if we give up too many corner kicks its just a matter of time before they put one in."