Panther soccer starting out ahead of the game

With one winning scrimmage under their belt, the Panther varsity men’s soccer team is on the prowl.

Last Friday night (March 11), Rappahannock hosted Eastern View High School for both JV and varsity matches. Panther JV came away with a 1-0 victory; varsity earned a 2-1 win.

Head varsity coach Matt Gillispie, a veteran coach of Culpeper County travel soccer, said, “That game was an exciting evening for me and for the team. We faced off against some boys I used to coach from Culpeper.”

There were several stand-out players.

Chris Cooper, a center and defensive back, kept the defense intact.

“He had a phenomenal game,” Gillispie said. “Also, James White and Tanyon Lee took control of the mid-field. Tanyon scored the first goal of the season, and Amrit Tamang scored the go-ahead goal in the second half. Another success was Ben Estes who, in the second half, had his varsity debut as keeper.”

Juniors Clayton Hatcher and Smith Cliffton reflected on the scrimmage.

“It was the first time I’ve played a varsity sport at Rappahannock, and it was crazy fun,” Hatcher said. “Playing in front of a crowd and under the lights. The freshmen killed it! They scored both goals and played some great defense, especially Billy Hogan.”
Cliffton had not played basketball for two years.

“It was a nice first game to come back to,” said Cliffton, who had the opportunity to try out the striker and wing positions. He sees the team as doing well in the first half. However, he thinks they should have gained more possessions in the second half.

“I did some sweet victory acrobatics — front hand springs — at the end,” said Cliffton.

As Panthers look ahead to their regular Bull Run District season, Coach Gillispie’s first focus is on his 18 players.

“Our freshmen are great assets to the varsity program. These are top-notch players for their age. We also have two seniors returning from last season: James White and Chris Cooper. Plus there are five returning juniors led by John Letsen and Andrew Oyster, along with key sophomores like Case Kramer and Matt Lombardi,” said Gillispie. “These boys are all hard workers and fine young men.”

Coach Gillispie also revealed his perspective on preparedness and the team’s future.

“The team has been working very hard to build unity, teamwork and mutual respect,” Gillispie said. Practice sessions have focused on skill drills, first touches, technical skills and implementing tactical skills. Gillespie thinks the team has a strong defense and mid-field.

“What I’m emphasizing very strongly is that we win the mid-field,” said Gillispie. “If we win that and the possession game, we have a great opportunity to come out on top.”

Panthers hosted their first regular-season game against Skyline Wednesday night (March 16). Look for results in next week’s Rappahannock News.

Panther baseball can’t get past FVCS defense

On Tuesday (March 15), the Panther varsity baseball team traveled to Fresta Valley Christian School for the season opener and suffered a disappointing 4-0 loss.

Rappahannock’s starting pitcher, Garfield Burke, shined. He gave up only one unearned run, struck out two, and allowed only one hit. Although the Panther pitchers aided the defense to keep the score tight, they couldn’t stop the FVCS pitcher as he threw for seven innings.

“Fresta Valley’s defense stepped up and robbed both John Mills and Garfield Burke of hits,” coach John Lesinski said. “Evan and Dylan Hitt split the balance of pitching duties, but only yielded one more earned run.”

“Overall, we just didn’t hit well and didn’t put the ball in play enough to force the opponent to adjust. We struck out too many times and left six guys on base. Batters couldn’t get the one hit that would have pushed runs across in the sixth and seventh innings. We did give up two runs late in the game.”

Lesinski adds that this was their first game and an opportunity to evaluate talent and position competency. He as mostly pleased with the infield and pitching. However, the outfield play and hitting needs improvement.

Rappahannock’s next chance for improvement is during their home opener Thursday (March 17) at 6 against Culpeper County High School’s Blue Devils. — M.D.

Lady Panthers soccer sees improvements

Rappahannock girls’ varsity soccer team kicked off its season at home with a March 11 scrimmage and a 4-1 loss against William Monroe High School.

Even in defeat, the Lady Panthers had cause to celebrate. Sophomore Lauren Light recalled some noteworthy moments.

“It was 1-1 in the first half, and we were really tight and getting pumped because we were making some awesome completions,” Light said. “The goal that we scored was beautiful, so we were getting excited.”

It was the second half that brought a shift in Rappahannock’s momentum.

“In the second half, we started getting really tired,” Light said. She explained that they don’t have enough subs. She played the entire game and was fatigued.

William Monroe sunk four baskets in the last 15 minutes, said Light.

“Once they got going, we got discouraged and even more tired,” Light said.

Senior Tiffany Wayland was tired as well.

“I definitely missed two balls that went in the goal that were mine,” said Wayland. “I should’ve been able to get there. I need to work on conditioning a lot more.”

Both players commented that the first two scrimmages were better than any of their games last year. Light partially attributes the improvement to familiarity.

“This season, the fact that we players have been together for a while is an asset,” Light said. “We know each others’ playing better, and that helps with communication.”

Wayland agreed. “We’re already playing better than last year,” she said. “We need to work more on being able to move around . . . switch positions faster and get better with the mental shift.

Wayland adds that the team needs to pass the ball more and rely upon each other.

“It is a team sport, after all,” said Wayland. “The most important thing for our next game is that we keep up our spirits through the whole game, even if we get down on the scoreboard. We really need to attack the other team — we need to attack them!”

Wednesday night (March 16), the Lady Panthers traveled to Skyline High School for their first regular-season game. Results will appear in next week’s Rappahannock News. — M.D.