Jackson County girls’ soccer coach Matt Maier hopes a rare shutout of his team serves as a teaching moment.

The Panthers (4-1) fell to Class AAAA Oconee County 2-0 Friday at home, marking the first time they’ve been held scoreless in a regular-season game since Feb. 9 of last year.

“It’s still early in the season,” Maier said. “It’s only game five. We weren’t going to go through undefeated. So, we’ve got to take a loss somewhere. It’s a learning experience for us now, and we’ll move on.”

Maier said his team works on passing and movement in practice but were inconsistent in both those areas Friday.

“Sometimes it was there, and when it was there, we didn’t capitalize, and sometimes it wasn’t there,” he said. “So those are things that we need to work on.”

Oconee County’s Amelia Norman broke a scoreless tie with a goal in the 20th minute. Abbie Hayes found the back of the net in the second half, scoring in the 61st minute.

Maier said that despite the deficit, his team never lacked intensity.

“I like that it didn’t matter, one goal down, two goals down, we didn’t stop fighting,” Maier said. “Every girl was hustling, every girl was trying to make a play. Sometimes it was one of those things where you get down a couple of goals and maybe we started to trying to play a little hero ball here and there. But the determination that the girls showed all the way through the entire game was a really big positive for me.”

Maier said non-region games like this one serve as a measuring stick of sorts for the program. Jackson County is also scheduled to face North Oconee, Chestatee, Johnson, Collins Hill, North Hall, Buford and Mountain View outside 8-AAA play this season.

“We want to be able to see where we are as a program, and see where we are this season and what we have to work on,” Maier said. “Oconee, they’re a very good squad. They exposed some things on us, and now we’re just going to have to go back and learn from it and make those corrections for when we play North Oconee on Tuesday.”

North Oconee enters Tuesday’s game with a 6-0 record and ranked No. 5 Class AAAA. The game is set for 5:30 p.m. at Jackson County.

“That’s going to be another tough challenge, but that’s the way that the schedule is going,” Maier said.

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