School and Sports News for April 5

Lady Panthers stand up to Monroe in OT loss

Lady Panther soccer hosted another exciting game Friday night (March 30) against a formidable district opponent, William Monroe. Rappahannock County fell, 2-1, in double overtime.

“Last year, William Monroe was in VHSL [Virginia High School League] classification AA and was one of the smaller enrollment schools,” said coach Rich Hogan. “This year, along with Central Woodstock, they have joined the Bull Run District and are currently the largest single-A in the state.

“We were able to score first with Keelee Armor taking it to the house and finding the back of the net for the second time this week,” Hogan said.

“Numerous lineup changes were necessary due to several players being unable to play,” Hogan said. “Most notably was the change in the goal and pulling freshman Jane Purnell up from the JV squad. Jane played varsity basketball this winter season, so this was not her first varsity experience. Anyone that can stand at the foul line and shoot free throws is prepared for the big stage. I know she has poise because I saw it during basketball season. Purnell did an outstanding job, and for the second time this year, we went into overtime.

“The first five-minute period saw numerous shots by both teams and some serious hitting which took Armor out of the match for a period of time,” Hogan said. “William Monroe scored on an arching ball that just drifted into the goal above the keeper’s outstretched arms. We practiced that shot earlier in warm-ups, but that is the most difficult shot to judge. We still had our chances at the end with a free kick from the 18.”

“It was an amazing match,” said junior Lauren Light. “We knew that William Monroe’s school was twice the size of us, so we came out with intensity and the knowledge that they would probably be very good. As the first half progressed, we realized that our teams were evenly matched. We scored the first goal and stayed in the lead until late in the second half.

“For the remaining time,” Light said, “it was a battle for the victory. Everyone on the field that night, whether in green and white or blue and gold, played their absolute hardest. Before we knew it, the regular game had ended, and overtime started. For the first five-minute half of overtime, we dominated. The defense kept sending long balls deep into Monroe’s territory, and the offense attacked, trying desperately to get a goal. We got some very good shots off, but their goalkeeper was excellent, and not planning on letting any balls through.

“Monroe scored their game winning goal in the second half of overtime,” Light said, “with a shot from midfield that was near perfection. Though we didn’t walk off of the field with a victory, we did walk off with pride. Rappahannock girls soccer can compete with these huge schools, and we look forward to our upcoming rematch with Monroe next week!”

Two quick goals trip Panther boys

Last Friday (March 30), Panther boys soccer suffered its second loss of the regular season against powerful Bull Run District rival William Monroe.

“The game remained scoreless until well into the second half when William Monroe notched two goals in quick succession,” coach James Lofton said of the 2-0 loss. “Both goals came from balls headed into the net.

“I thought the first goal was well-deserved,” Lofton said. “We conceded a lot of corners to our opponents, and corners are hard to defend. But the second goal was because we, almost imperceptibly, dropped our energy and level of play. All a good team needs to capitalize is a small lapse, and it was then that William Monroe struck with a second goal.

“For my part,” Lofton said, “I thought the teams were very evenly matched. From the start, the play was hard and tough from both teams. Naturally, it is always a little painful to come out of a game that was very close and competitive and feel like you came up short in terms of goals for and against. However, I think the boys again showed a high degree of character, and that is what truly counts when the final whistle is blown. I’m a firm believer in what [longtime UCLA basketball coach] John Wooden said: ‘Failing to prepare is preparing to fail. If you prepare properly, you may be outscored but you will never lose.’

“As for the team, it will continue to mature, learn, and bond,” said Lofton. “The real progress isn’t in the scorebooks; it’s in overall development. The winning is just a byproduct of hard work and staying power.”

Rappahannock took on its perennial rival, Strasburg High School, on Tuesday (April 3) in Rams’ territory. Results in next week’s Rappahannock News.

Lady Panthers exit March outbatted

Last week, in a triple-game end to March, Lady Panthers softball suffered a series of losses, but the team remains determined as they prepare to face the Strasburg Rams in this week’s only game.

Last Tuesday (March 27), the Rappahannock County High School team traveled to Manassas Park to take on the Cougars for a 9-3 defeat. “We lost focus and allowed Manassas Park to move a few runners in scoring position,” coach Andy Hipple said. “Some timely hits and we were behind playing catch-up. We started a rally in the top of the seventh but were unable to muster two more runs.

“This was a hard loss,” Hipple said. “We should have been more successful. History tells us that we should have been all over them, but we could not score runs. We had runners on base but could not move them home.”

On the road again Thursday (March 29), the ladies visited Colonial Beach and fell 10-1. “I tried a slightly different line-up to create a spark,” Hipple said. “We played extremely tough through the fifth inning. Four fly balls to the outfield, and we fielded three of them cleanly. Our only run was scored after a third inning walk was issued to Courtney King who was moved into scoring position by Peyton Bailey and Casey Fletcher.

“We need to get our big hitter bats connecting with the ball,” said Hipple. “We hit the ball right at people. Caitlin Miller pitched well. She hit her groove early and often through four innings. In the fifth, Colonial Beach batters were able to adjust to her pitches and started to make some noise.”

Friday (March 30) saw the Panthers hosting their only home game of the week, a 15-0 loss to William Monroe. The Dragons “came out in the first and was connecting with everything Peyton threw. We were rattled early and often,” Hipple said.

“We are a talented team who has not, up to this point in the season, played up to our potential,” Hipple said. “We will go back to practice and make some adjustments to generate offense and shore up the defense. We have dug ourselves a good hole which we need to climb out. Bull Run play is going to be tough but we have the talent to hang tough and compete on any night.”

Junior Cassandra Harrison revealed her winning attitude about the future of the Panther team. “We lost, but we played better as a team. Right now our main focus is getting better on working together as a team. Monroe was an amazing team. They knew what they were doing and kept it together. I can see why we lost to them. But, as long as we learn from our mistakes and keep on getting better, I think that’s ideal. If we don’t get districts this year, then they better watch out for next year!”

Panther baseball’s rough start in district play

Panther baseball opened its Bull Run District season last Tuesday (March 27) with a 12-3 loss at Manassas Park that predicted the trend for the team’s three-game week.

“Three pitchers threw well at Manassas Park,” coach Jake Kazele said. “Dylan Hitt, Brandon Walker, and Garfield Burke turned out a lot of strikes. As a team, there was a lot more contact at the plate. However, those pesky errors snuck back in.”

Following the Tuesday night disappointment, Rappahannock traveled Thursday night (March 29) to take on Colonial Beach. The Pirates robbed the Panthers of another win, 8-3.

The week-ending Friday night (March 30) game saw the William Monroe Dragons blazing through the Panther efforts, 19-1. “Our pitchers continue to throw strikes,” Kezele said, “but opponents are finding the holes in the outfield. Our hitters continue to make better contact but improvement is still necessary.”

“This season has been a rough one so far,” said junior Grayson Love. “William Monroe is a tough team to beat. We only got one hit the whole game, and we only scored one run. Not only did we make ‘rookie’ errors by dropping easy pop flies and making terrible throws, but we couldn’t get the bat on the ball.

“Our team is starting to come together more and play as a team instead of as individuals,” Love said. “We need to work on three significant things: batting, catching fly balls, and having confidence.”