Lady Panthers shut out Cougars, turn the corner at Monroe

The last week in April Lady Panther varsity soccer faced off against two formidable foes for a double-victory celebration. At home April 24, Rappahannock County shut out Manassas Park, 6-0. On the road at William Monroe Friday (April 27), the Ladies came away with a 2-1 win.

Against the Manassas Park Cougars, the Panthers recorded their six goals in a balanced scoring attack. Rappahannock came out with a different strategy and started the match with Michelle White playing midfield instead of defensive sweeper. Her impact was immediately noticed as a well-placed free kick resulted in a dramatic score by Maria Garralda. White also got an assist when Garralda headed White’s corner kick into the goal.

The match saw Bryn Sonnett and Dani Boutte scoring. “Michelle also scored two rocket shots to the upper 90s,” said fan Brian Kelly.

Said coach Rich Hogan: “The girls came out with a different mindset – that they were going to try a different lineup that was more offensively minded and take it to the other team right away, get their heads down and not look back.”

Friday saw the teams travel to Greene County and face their new Bull Run District foe, William Monroe. The first meeting of the two happened earlier in Panther territory March 30 with Monroe securing a victory in overtime. The Lady Panthers were looking to avenge that loss.

“Once again, the match was close and physical,” said Kelly, as Monroe scored on a set play to take the lead 1-0 going into the break.

The determined Panthers regrouped at halftime and came out determined to win all 50/50 balls. Once again the lineup had White at midfield alternating with Sonnett as needed. Haley Hogan sent a shot to the top corner of the goal with the keeper for Monroe getting a hand on it sending over the back line, resulting in a corner kick that would change the game. White scored off her corner kick – something that does not happen at any level very often.

“Michelle has been working on bending her corners into the goal and she did just that,” Hogan said. “The keeper for Monroe never knew what happened until it was in the back of the net.”

Monroe was frustrated that Rappahannock controlled the ball. Par for the course, Jane Purnell had the most spectacular save of the night with a point-blank shot she grabbed to send the game into overtime.

Panthers found themselves in their third overtime game of the year with two five-minute periods and no shootout.

“Oh my gosh, the game was so much fun!” said senior Sonnett. “We were actually not playing well in the first half. In the second half, we decided to get it together, work harder, get passes, talk to each other, get our heads up. The turning point was when Maria hurt herself. We were all so heartbroken that we rallied to win for her.” Unfortunately, Garralda had to be carried off the pitch in regulation time with a serious knee injury.

The first five minutes of overtime play saw several shots but no scores. During the second five minutes, the Ladies did look determined to win for Garralda’s sake. White’s possession ability was drawing a lot of attention and defenders from Monroe. She brought the ball up the midfield and several defenders attempted to stop her any way they could. “In the last seconds,” Sonnett said, “Michelle gave me a perfect pass that I took in the midfield, and I cranked up to Lauren [Light] in a desperate attempt to get a goal by the end.” Once inside the box, Light attacked the goal and shot the ball to beat the keeper with 16 seconds left on the clock. “Light had a perfect goal,” Sonnett said. “We freaked out and ran to tackle each other. It was awesome!”

“I think it was definitely the changing point of our whole season,” said Haley Hogan. “We finally proved to ourselves and our team . . . the typical Rapp mentality of settling for a tie is false. Those last minutes were really critical and prove our whole season. I think we proved we were the better team. We wanted it more, and we got it!”

Panther girls now have five district wins and are tied with Madison for third place.

Boys: 1-1 in two hard-fought district matches

Panther varsity men’s soccer logged another week of strong performances with an early-week loss (0-3) and a late-week victory (2-1) to bring their team record to 5-5-1.

On Tuesday (April 24), Panthers traveled to take on the perennial league powerhouse and reigning state champions, Manassas Park. For nearly the entire first half, the game remained scoreless with both teams having opportunities to put the ball in the back of the net.

With just minutes remaining in the half, Cougars notched their first goal of the game from a deep run to the end line with the ball from forward, Silas Carden, who passed for a one-time finish.

In the second half, Manassas Park picked up the tempo of the game and Rappahannock responded with tough, determined defense. As the game wore on, Manassas Park did manage to garner two additional goals, but the game remained hard-fought and close.

“I was pleased with the quality demonstrated by both teams,” said coach James Lofton. “I thought my defense played well; in particular, backs Clayton Hatcher and Brian Baumgardner, showed phenomenal grit and leadership. The game would not have been so close had it not been for those two. Clayton was a constant source of positive, vocal encouragement, and Brian matched up against some of the best forwards in the state and didn’t give an inch away.”

On Friday night (April 27), Panthers hosted Bull Run District rival William Monroe. Like many of the recent district battles, the first half ended 0-0 with both teams vying for goals. However, in the second half, the game opened up. The Panthers were first to get on the scoreboard with a 45-yard blast from forward Case Kramer. Just inside William Monroe’s half, the ball dropped for Kramer. On the bounce, Kramer laced the ball which traveled on a straight line over the keeper’s head and into the back of the net.

“Case just drilled a bomb from midfield,” said Hatcher. “It’s the best goal I’ve ever been a part of. For like two seconds afterward, we just froze and stood there. Everyone was awestruck.”

“I haven’t seen any high school players take and make shots like that,” said Lofton. “It took fabulous awareness and execution from Case, and it gave us exactly the lift we were looking for.”

Rappahannock’s Matt Lombardi controls the ball in the Panthers’ hard-fought win against William Monroe last week.
Bonnie Lofton
Rappahannock’s Matt Lombardi controls the ball in the Panthers’ hard-fought win against William Monroe last week.

Not minutes later, the Dragons answered Rappahannock’s goal with one of their own. The Panthers followed soon after with their second goal of the game from a well-placed ball from Amrit Tamang played behind William Monroe’s defense to Tanyon Lee, who was able to outrun his mark and calmly slot the ball past the Dragons’ keeper. Although the Dragons turned up the heat in search of an equalizer, the Panthers’ defense held strong.

Said senior Robbie Adams: “Tanyon took the ball, beat the defense and scored the second goal. After that, it was solid play. We picked up our game. We raised up a level. Our defense was really steppin’ up. We were hitting on all cylinders.”

“For my part,” Lofton said, “I see the week as a critical turning point: the boys had two performances in which the play was solid, dogged and determined for the entirety of both games. From goalie to forwards, the boys put everything they had into the games. No matter which team scores more goals, the boys can feel that any performance is a success if they all contribute as best they can. And I think they did. It is no novel feat for the whole team to play 80 minutes of solid soccer, and I think they did that twice this week. That represents progress. That’s what it’s all about.”

RCHS track brings own stars to first meet

Last Thursday (April 25), two new additions to the Bull Run District arrived in Panther territory for Rappahannock County High School’s first home track meet of the season. William Monroe and Central Woodstock met with some strong hometown competition.

“With only three varsity girls, our team did very well,” said coach James Sharpe.

Sophomore Rita Cliffton definitely did her best that day. “I won the 400 meter dash and the long jump,” she said. “The 400 meter was my best time in my entire running career at 1:10. There was someone close behind me. She was giving it her all, but she was one second behind me. She spoke to me afterwards and said that I was really pushing her. That’s a huge compliment, and it was really fun to win.”

Cliffton added a personal surprise to her day when she was victorious in the women’s long jump with a jump of 12 feet 10 inches. “I’m not usually good at the long jump. We were all kind of inexperienced together. It is really a fun event because it’s something different than running.”

Another teammate also enjoyed competition variety. Maria Garralda entered the 100-, 200- and 400-meter races. She also threw the shot put and discus in the field. Garralda took home third in the 100 and second in the 400.

Garralda’s favorite event is the 200-meter dash. “I enjoy that event the most. It’s longer than the 100 meter; plus, I’m not fast enough for the 100. In the race, there’s so much energy, you feel like ‘I can do this, too.’ When I’m there, ready to run, I’m just going to die in order win. It’s only for a few minutes, so I know I can do it. In the 200, I like the fact that I got to run with the slower heat. When you see the winners from the faster race, you think, ‘Okay, maybe I’m not that good.’”

One other Lady Panther fell into the “good” category. Kayla McGhee won fourth in the 800.

In the men’s varsity events, Josh Jones gathered some winning statistics in the 300-meter hurdles and the 400-meter dash.

Of the 400, Jones said, “I was feeling really good that day. Around the 300-yard mark, I suspected I might win. However, a William Monroe runner snuck up and beat me. He passed me so quickly because I was dead by the last 50 yards. I had nothing left.”

Jones celebrated third place in the 400 with a 55.4 time and a second place in the 300 meter hurdles. Two of his teammates won some applause, as well. Seth Wayland came in fourth in the 400 meter. Caleb Stump jumped consistently and long, placing fourth at 17’ in the long jump. He also got fourth in the 200 meter race.

Panthers traveled this week to Manassas Park. Results will appear in next week’s Rappahannock News.