longer an afterthought for playoff-bound teams. Wins earlier this month made sure of that.
In a span of five days, the Tigers (9-2) defeated No. 9 ranked Lakeside 1-0 on March 16 and followed that with a 2-1 win in penalty kicks over Marist on March 20. The team that has lost four first-round playoff games in a row is now 7-0 in Region 6-AAAA, where it usually makes the state tournament as the third or fourth seed.
“It’s a big accomplishment,” said co-captain Josiah Saydee. “It makes the team have confidence that we can beat anybody.”
A 10-0 win over Douglass on March 26 gave the Tigers their eighth straight win and they have outscored the opposition 27-2 in that span. Tucker’s only losses this season have come against McIntosh 3-0 and Paideia 2-0. Both of those teams are state-ranked and have a combined record of 19-2.
“I think people know we’re playing ball,” said coach Tim Newmyer. “I like to play tough teams. It gives us a good indication of where we are.”
Newmyer credits team unity, speed, strong defense and solid play throughout the entire starting lineup as the main ingredients to the success of this season. The Tigers’ international roster has helped the team bond and it carries over onto the field. Players hail from Africa, Europe, the Caribbean, the Middle East and the United States.
“This team has been together for a while and we’ve just grown together,” Saydee said. “Tucker is like a melting pot and we’re a prime example of that.”
Saydee, a sweeper, and goalkeeper Steven Duffy, both juniors, have been on the varsity for three years while senior defender George Kapeh is a four-year starter. The threesome is a big part of the Tigers’ staunch defense that has allowed only 11 goals through 11 games. McIntosh is the only team to score more than two goals against the Tigers. Four of the past five matches have been shutouts.
On offense, junior striker Solomon Roberts leads with 11 goals.
“Nobody is scoring a bunch of goals,” Newmyer said. “Our nemesis has been trying to finish off games. We play a skill game that features very solid defense.”
It is that strategy that Newmyer and his players hope will lead to a breakthrough in the playoffs this season. The Tigers have made the state playoffs four times in the past five seasons, but have been eliminated in the first round in each of those seasons.
Last year was especially difficult, when the Tigers rallied from a 3-0 deficit with 18 minutes to play against Habersham Central. Tucker tied the game and sent it to overtime, only to lose on penalty kicks in sudden death.
“This team has more poise and we’re much better top to bottom than last season,” Newmyer said. “We’re still a work in progress and we still have to be better finishers. But overall, we pull together as a group. We’re a lot like a family.”