Panther boys and girls varsity soccer teams are wrapping up their final series of regular season games. Last week, Rappahannock County High School squared off against perennial league winners George Mason and Clarke, both Rapp teams suffering consecutive losses.
On Tuesday (May 8), the Panther boys traveled to Northern Virginia to face the George Mason Mustangs. The game showed a scoreless board for most of the game, but Mason continued to press the Panthers for a goal. Late in the second half, the Mustangs notched the first goal of the game from a free kick that split the Panthers’ wall and traveled into the far-side netting. As seconds ticked down, Tanyon Lee moved the ball across the top of Mason’s goal box and took a blast that ripped into the upper corner of the Mustang’s goal. With the score tied at 1, both teams went into overtime hungry for the winning goal. But it was Mason that went on to kick a goal in each overtime period to finish the game 3-1.
“I am very pleased with how the boys performed,” said coach James Lofton. “They played with so much heart. It took an immense team effort to keep Mason down to one goal in regular time, and it was an even greater show of character and perseverance to tie up the game. I was throwing players forward in overtime, trying to gain some momentum in search of a game-winner, and I left the team a bit exposed in the back. Mason is such a quality team. I gambled on being able to take some of Mason’s momentum after we scored late in the game. To their credit, Mason responded with poise and fortitude. Both teams played well, and I couldn’t have been happier with my boys.”
On the same evening, Panther girls hosted their final regular-season home game against George Mason. They honored their seniors but fell 6-0.
On Friday (May 11), the boys hosted the Clarke County Eagles for their second tough district matchup of the week. The first half of the game saw back and forth play with both teams having scoring chances. With just minutes to go in the first half, the Eagles secured their first goal. With Clarke ramping up pressure in the second half, the Panthers fought to keep the Eagles off the board a second time. As the game came to a close, Clarke clinched its victory with two additional goals.
Rappahannock was not without its own opportunity to score. Pushing high onto the Eagles’ defense, Tanyon Lee got a shot that sailed just wide of the goal. The game ended with a 3-0 Panther defeat.
“I challenged my boys to two moral victories this week,” Lofton said. “The criterion for these moral victories was threefold: First, the boys had to have fun. Second, they had to play tough soccer for 80 minutes – no lapses. Third, the boys had to show the utmost respect for their teammates, the referees and our opponents. These are victories, not just mere wins that are indicated by tallies on the scorecard. Anybody who saw both games or was part of this team would be able to tell that the matches this week were moral victories. I am so proud of the boys. They have become a solid unit. On and off the field, they act out the call to be standard-setters. We’ll continue to grow, but as a coach, I couldn’t ask for more than what the boys gave this week.”
Lady Panthers took their game on the road that same evening and fell to the Eagles, 8-0.
Both teams played their final regular season games on Tuesday (May 15) against Madison County, the girls celebrating “senior night” at home. Results will appear in next week’s Rappahannock News.
In the first game of the Valley Middle School Conference tournament last week, Rappahannock’s Junior Panther girls soccer team faced Wakefield Country Day School for a dramatic 8-2 win.
Setting the tone for the game, within the first three minutes, Kayla Robey launched a rocket corner kick that found Jessica Thorne, who booted the ball high into the net. Wakefield came back to pack their entire team in the defensive end to avoid further Panther scoring, but Sara Thornhill offered a beautiful “back-pass” to Kayla Robey for the team’s second goal, and the momentum came on like a flood.
Virginia Wyatt, who was playing in a new position offensively, placed a ball at Julia Estes’ feet for goal three. In the second half, Panthers came out flat, and Wakefield scored two unanswered goals within five minutes.
During the struggle to regain control, Hannah Kleppinger had a dangerous collision on field and was forced to leave in an ambulance. “She suffered a concussion,” coach Natalie Hathaway said, “but we are happy to report that all is well. She was disappointed at missing the championship game.”
The team rallied after Kleppinger’s injury, and Thornhill contributed two goals, while Robey and Julia Estes added a point each. Plus, the first goal of what looks like many to come, shot to the net on the foot of fifth-grader Faith Pullen. “We pressed the gas and didn’t let up!” said Jessica Thorne. “That’s how the JP girls do it.”
“This game is what we have worked for all season,” said Julia Estes.
The girls celebrated a 2-0 follow-up victory against Fresta Valley in the tournament’s championship game.
“Our two previous meetings against them ended in ties,” Hathaway said. “So, all I’m thinkin’ in my mind is that we ain’t endin’ in no stinkin’ tie!”
Robey scored in the first 10 minutes and Thorne added the only other score with less than a minute left in the first half.
JP’s “Fab Four” dominated the defense: Hannah Bennett, Tymbor Lee, Kayleigh “Kentucky 8” Flannagan and Paige Pilkington secured the shut out. “Nothing sailed past them,” Hathaway said. They obviously were tired of the “ties.”
“Panther fans were definitely the 12th ‘man’ on the field,” said Hathaway. “They were awesome and have been incredibly supportive all year.”
Nine strong and seasoned players will be moving to JV next year for a chance to continue their championship drive.