In the 2012 women’s soccer season, athletes in the Bull Run District find themselves in an epic battle amongst the state’s most competitive Single A teams. The Lady Panthers, headed by veteran coach Rich Hogan, are locked in a late-season third place behind perennial state champs Clarke County and George Mason.
“With three games remaining in the regular season,” said athletic director Jimmy Swindler, “Hogan will be looking to get even more out of this outstanding team as they jockey for a favorable position in the district tournament that may springboard them into the regionals.”
The Ladies showcased their competitive instincts with two consecutive wins to open the month of May. Victories over Strasburg (5-1) and Central Woodstock (2-1) gave the girls the fuel of hope as they prepare to face the Bull Run District threats that remain.
On Tuesday (May 1), senior Katie Hale saw her team “at a slight disadvantage, playing on Strasburg’s turf, but we put five goals up on the board in the first half.” Fellow senior Bryn Sonnett certainly “had a solid performance at midfield, distributing the ball to numerous teammates.”
Dani Boutte, Keelee Armor and Lauren Light scored one goal each. Emily Massie shined with her quick releases that found the corners of the goal and scored two just inside the 18-yard line.
Rappahannock followed up when they dominated home field on Thursday, May 3. “We were prepared for a tough match against an improved Central team,” Hale said. Even though Boutte set the tone with a score about 20 minutes into the match, Hale saw “the evenly defensive Falcons bounce back and score just before half time.”
Panther coaches changed the lineup for the game’s second half, switching Sonnett’s and Michelle White’s positions on the field, and moving Massie to forward. “This was a critical decision from Coach Hogan,” Hale said. “It helped cause the game-winning score from Michelle White late in the game.”
Bryn Sonnett and Haley Hogan catalogued the team’s efforts. “In the second half, we came out more on the offensive. Then toward the middle of that half, we were slow. It all came down to the last 10 minutes. Mimi [Michelle White] hit it from the 18. Her shot was so hard that it went through the goalie’s hands and legs. With five minutes left, we were like ‘OMG, we have to hold them!’ We dropped to four players in the backfield, so we had more defense and held the Falcons to 2-1 for the rest of the game. We were exhausted in the end.”
These two essential victories have placed the girls in third place in the district, with a record of 7-4. Swindler explained the Ladies’ position in the competitive lineup. “With only two teams from each district going to regionals,” he said, “Panthers’ hopes rest on a playoff format that will land them in the tournament final against the regular season champs, whoever that ends up being. Of course they will have to play their hearts out to get to that point, but given what we’ve seen from our girls so far, and given the superb coaching that they have to lead them, it will not be a surprise if they reach that pinnacle. From there, no one can predict how far they can go. No matter what happens for the rest of the season, no one can deny that this season has been an outstanding one for Rappahannock County girls varsity soccer.”
Junior Panther girls soccer hosted its last regular season game on Friday, April 27, when they took on Shenandoah Valley for a 3-0 triumph.
According to coach Natalie Hathaway, “Persistence paid off.”
The girls were scoreless in the game’s first half. “We came out flat,” Hathaway said. “The girls hadn’t practiced together in several days, and it was evident.”
Halftime allowed time for several players to offer a team pep talk that got the girls in groove.
Hope floated in on the feet of a penalty kick by Tymbor Lee. “Shades of David Beckham,” Hathaway said, “Nothin’ but net and high in the corner.”
Julia Estes earned a chance to demonstrate stamina as she found herself triple-teamed the entire game . “Each time the ball found her feet,” Hathaway said, “she was swarmed by three or more Shenandoah players.”
Kayla Robey stepped up to the challenge and scored the second and third team goals. She was aided by a young and able Sarah East (fifth grade), one of the team’s most junior players, and Sarah Thornhill (eighth grade), who is playing soccer for the first time.
The Fab Four became the Fab Five with the “nothin’s gettin’ by us” attitudes of: Hannah Kleppinger, Tymbor Lee, Kayleigh “Kentucky 8” Flanagan, Paige Pilkington, and keeper Hannah Bennett.
The team’s recent tournament results will appear in next week’s Rappahannock News.