SPRINGFIELD — Effingham County coach Wade Wright’s face contradicted the scoreboard at Rebel Field.
A smile of satisfaction dominated Wright’s mug even though his Lady Rebels dropped a 2-0 decision to Bradwell Institute on March 30.
“That was the best game we’ve played all year,” Wright said.
Wright wasn’t happy about the Region 2-AAAAAA loss but he delighted in his team’s effort. The Lady Rebels pushed the Lady Tigers to the limit despite being stretched extremely thin by injuries. Effingham County has played up to two players short at times this season.
“That’s the thing about this group this year,” Wright said. “We’ve had so much adversity that we have two choices. We can either laugh about it or we can use it to our advantage.
“We can’t have a pity party because we don’t have time.”
One of Effingham County’s best scoring threats, junior Ashton Smith, was the latest Lady Rebel to get hurt. She left the Bradwell Institute game in the first half with a foot contusion.
In response, the Lady Rebels shuffled their responsibilities and remained upbeat.
“A lot of the encouragement was because kids were stepping up,” Wright said. “We asked kids to do things that they have never done and they weren’t just doing it. They were doing it well.
“No one panicked.”
Effingham County played Bradwell Institute to a standstill except for allowing a goal in the final minute of each half.
“For 79 minutes, we played the perfect game,” Wright said. “If we can turn that into 80 minutes, we may have a shot in the playoffs.”
Since qualifying for the postseason a couple weeks ago, the Lady Rebels (8-5, 6-5) have focused their attention on likely first-round opponent Grovetown (11-3-1, 7-1) of Region 3-AAAAAA.
“It just so happens that Bradwell Institute runs the same formation and runs it the same way (as Grovetown),” Wright said. “That’s good luck.”
Wright used the opportunity to employ a new defensive strategy.
“It worked,” he said. “Now we just have to get better at it.”
Several of Wright’s players are certainly improving, including Inessa Brackbill.
“She has finally gotten confidence up top and has become a legitimate threat as a striker,” Wright said. “That helps us because it takes pressure off when you have to honor her.
“Shelby Aiken is also helping us. We have asked her to do multiple things because she is so athletic. She has risen to the challenge and is doing phenomenal.”
Taylor Clyde has also boosted the Lady Rebels through her versatility.
“I could say something about every girl,” Wright said. “Taylor has gone from being a midfielder, to a forward, to a back and never complained. She may be one of the best backs we have around.”
Freshman goalkeeper Dayanara Figueroa did her best to keep Effigham County in the contest against the Lady. She posted more than 20 saves.
“And those were legitimate saves, too,” Wright said.
Wright said he planned to give his team a much-needed rest during the spring break.
“All we are doing is healing and recovering,” he said.
Effingham County’s regular season finale is against 2-AAAAAA leader Glynn Academy (14-0-1, 11-0) in Brunswick on April 14.