When the James River girls finally found out where they were going to play the state soccer semifinal, they ended up losing to Maggie Walker, a Governor’s School team with an impressive array of talent. The Dragons shut out River, 5-0, then went on to win the state championship a day later.
The game was originally scheduled to be played at Cupp Stadium on the campus of Radford University on Friday afternoon. However, a forecast of impending rain convinced the Virginia High School League to alter the schedule and the Knights’ game was moved first to Blacksburg High, then to Christiansburg High to take advantage of the artificial turf field in case of rain.
Game time was changed to early in the morning to try and beat the rain, but that didn’t pan out as much of the game was played during a rainstorm. As for the game itself, Maggie Walker was able to rain shots on Knights’ senior keeper Colleen Peery, who did her very best to keep her team in the game.
“Colleen Peery made a number of brilliant stops in this last performance in goal for the Knights,” said River coach Bill Smith. “All who were there were impressed with her efforts.”
Maggie Walker scored in the first minute with a fast drive and well-rehearsed pass and finish. This would prove to be the first of three goals for the half.
The Knights put in a noble effort for the entire game, despite the uneven score. The second half was much like the first with two more early goals. James River went on the attack and had some chances, but their best was not enough to change the result.
The Knights made the state semifinal on the heels of a 3-0 shutout win over John Battle in Bristol earlier in the week.
“The long bus ride and bumpy field were not ideal, but the girls are pretty good at adapting,” said Smith.
The first half was like a lot of first halves for the Knights, with a lot of good attacking play but no goals. The ball was on the Battle end a good majority of the time, with a few good counterattacks from the Trojans.
The second half started out with the same pattern, but the Knights started figuring out the Trojan defense. With 28 minutes left in the half Rachael Hix opened the scoring, assisted by Myla Lester, who recorded her 11th assist of the season. A minute later Megan Hill finished a header after a brilliant run and assist by Morgan Marshall. Then Kayla Myers finished off an assist from Tessa Jones for the final score and the River defense did the rest.
“The (previously) undefeated Trojans fought on valiantly but did not have the power to overcome the senior back line of James River,” said Smith.
That win put the girls in the “Final Four,” where they lost to Maggie Walker. The Dragons then took down nine-year reigning state champ George Mason in Saturday’s championship game, 1-0.
River finished the season with a 14-6-1 overall record, highlighted by a trip to the state and a stunning upset of county rival Lord Botetourt during the regular season. They knocked both LB and John Battle from the ranks of the undefeated before the season ended against the eventual state champion.
“This was a great season for the Knights,” said Smith. “A loss at this level is tough, but it is impressive to get to the state semi-finals.”