The Lady Bulldogs, who play the Lady Purple Hurricanes at 6 p.m. today at Weinman Stadium, defeated North Oconee, the top seed from Region 8, by a 1-0 score.
But the Canes, a No. 2 seed from Region 5, are getting to host rather than visit their second-round opponent, with the winner moving to the Elite Eight round of the playoffs.
“That’s icing on the cake for us,” Chad Murray of Cartersville (15-3) said, “to be playing a second round game at home.”
Murray, the Canes head coach, said his team knows the game will be rugged.
“Decatur (10-5-1) plays in the same region with Blessed Trinity and St. Pius [X],” he said. “It’s probably the premier soccer region in the state.
“The No. 4 seed in a region like that can be an extremely good team.”
Murray said he is expecting a defensive battle tonight and Cartersville will have to play its best game to have a chance to win.
“We know they’re a solid team,” he said. “I talked to North Oconee’s coach about the matchup. He said they are solid all over and they have a marquee player like about every other team that has reached this point.
“I also can look at their schedule and see they’re solid, well-coached and, evidently, very disciplined.”
Their most one-sided loss of the season came to St. Pius X, which defeated them 5-0. They fell to Blessed Trinity, 1-0, and also to Woodward Academy, 1-0. Those three opponents were the No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 seeds in their region. St. Pius and Blessed Trinity are still in the playoffs while Woodward got its exit pass punched in the first round.
No other teams from Cartersville’s Region 5 are still in the playoffs.
Murray said Cartersville played a tough schedule to prepare for what’s ahead.
“We need to be patient and we have to be mentally tough,” the coach said.
He said he doesn’t have a scouting report.
“We don’t know much about them, but from what we can tell by looking at the schedule, they don’t seem to score a ton,” he said. “We are preparing for a defensive battle.”
He said his team has had a good season and should be ready to play such a quality opponent.
“I talked to the team yesterday,” he said Tuesday. “There are 16 soccer team still playing right now, and we’re one of them.
“I think they know what a big deal it is to be playing now. We’re in the right place mentally and if we’re able to execute like we are capable of, we’ll give Decatur a good game.”
Murray said the Lady Canes played tough opponents outside their region, too, to prepare for the playoffs.
“We lost to Rome and it was an example of youth showing, our tendency to get frustrated,” he said. “When we got frustrated, we got away from what helped us win. We have to have crisp passes and work up the field. We kind of panicked against Rome and kind of played some boom ball.
“We can’t get out of our game. We know we’re going to face adversity tonight. That’s why we played the Romes, the Daltons. We got behind in those games as many as three goals and we were able to come back and tie the score. We learned we certainly can play with them.”
Murray said the team has no big changes planned.
“You dance with the one that brought you,” he smiled.