Rappahannock County High School’s Lady Panther varsity soccer team stood strong on their home turf Monday (May 21) to secure a first-round Bull Run District playoff win (1-0) against William Monroe’s Dragons. These rivals have met on two previous occasions this season, both resulting in dramatic overtime decisions with split results.
The first half remained scoreless, thanks to freshman keeper Jane Purnell and a crowd-pleasing save against a one-on-one attack from all-district player Elle Hall.
“The second 40 minutes saw us getting the only point on the board at the 43-minute mark,” coach Rich Hogan said. Getting on the board came courtesy of sophomore Keelee Armor, who found the topside of the net in the face of a charging keeper from William Monroe.”
“[It] was the best game I have played with these girls all season,” Armor said later, “because not only did we have our parent and student bleachers filled, but we were extremely organized and hungry for a win. I am not ready for this amazing season to end because this is the best group of girls I have ever played with, so I just gave it my all last night. This season I have missed many goal opportunities because I would shoot it straight to her hands. But this time, after I outran their defensive line, it was just the goalie and me. I was patient . . . waited until she stepped out, then I went around her and scored.”
The rest of the night featured both teams fighting for control of the middle third of the pitch with Amber Dodson, Lauren Light, Shelby Burnett and Bryn Sonnett battling to dominate the midfield.
“As with all the season,” Hogan said, “the back line fought off attacks and attempted through balls.” He credited defenders Michelle White, Haley Hogan, Caitlin Humbles and Katie Hale with sealing the Dragons’ fate.
Dani Boutte, Emily Massie, and Lily Endre worked hard on both ends of the field all night, with Endre getting taken down just short of scoring. Emily Pearcy and Eleasha Clement assisted their teammates with valuable minutes of playing time as they had all season. Alaina Devine, Maria Garralda and Emma Fisher were all sidelined with injuries but supported their teammates loudly and often.
For this playoff game, Maddie Heneghan and Brittany Adams both moved up from the junior varsity team. “Heneghan made an immediate impact as a forward,” Hogan said, “and Adams pleased the crowd as she substituted for an injured Katie Hale just before the half.”
Even with the Panther push, Monroe managed a late-game rally when their coach pushed his defensive line up in an attempt to score. Humbles stopped the Dragons with a stunning tackle in front of the crowd. In the last seconds, senior Hale had a final touch on the ball with no chance to score.
The Lady Panthers were to take their momentum onto the battlefield again Wednesday to meet the four-time state champions of George Mason High School in a quarterfinal match. Twice this season, Rappahannock suffered defeat at the hands of the Mustangs. “The girls know what they’re up against,” said Hogan.
Regardless of the outcome, Hogan said he knows “this group of seniors is experiencing their best statistical season ever and can graduate feeling proud of their accomplishments on the soccer field and off.
“This is not just a bunch of soccer players,” Hogan said. “What we have here are class valedictorians, class presidents, drum majors, drum minors, band members, A-B honor roll students and a group with five seniors who have all been accepted to colleges. Creatively, we have Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel, Florinda and Lucinda, prom queens, homecoming queens and just plain beauty queens, candy stripers, cheerleaders, track stars and even a little javelin-throwing matador from Spain. This group of girls, along with the junior varsity team, are standout student athletes – second to none.”
In their eleventh week of action, Rappahannock varsity boys soccer (9-7-1) notched their eighth and ninth victories of the year with consecutive shutouts of Madison County (4-0) and William Monroe (2-0).
On Tuesday (May 15), Panthers hosted visiting cross-county rivals, Madison Mountaineers. The game opened with high pressure from the Panthers, and the push paid off: Tanyon Lee and Amrit Tamang each netted goals in the first half of the game. With unabated energy, the boys pushed for a little security in the second half. Team effort paid dividends. Amrit Tamang led the Panthers in points with a hat-trick (three goals). Ben Estes and Andrew Oyster also had noteworthy performances with Estes registering his fifth shutout of the year.
After locking down the fourth seed in the district, Rappahannock was host to the first round of the Bull Run District tournament on Friday night (May 18). The boys confronted the fifth-seeded William Monroe Dragons, a team that, just as with the girls, split two tough games with the Panthers in the regular season.
The game started with strong challenges and fast play from both sides, but it was Panthers that took the lead with a 35-yard blast from Tanyon Lee that dipped over the Dragon’s keeper and into the goal.
In the second half, Panther’s sealed their victory with a “heads-up” play from Jon Letson who quickly used a free kick to send the ball over the heads of the unsuspecting Dragon’s defenders into the path of Tamang who took a touch and finished the ball with a well-placed pass to the back of the goal.
“The boys are bringing it all together right now,” said coach James Lofton. “They are in shape, respectful, and, most importantly, they’re having fun and constantly making progress. Team leaders, Matt Lombardi, Jon Letson, and Brian Baumgardner, have enabled us to move to a much higher tempo game. From our forwards – Edwin Garcia, Alex Jung, Case Kramer and Amrit Tamang – to our backs, we are able to pressure the ball much more and force turnovers.
“It’s really enjoyable to coach a team that is willing to leave it all on the field like that,” Lofton said, “and I think it’s great to watch as well. It’s a team effort. The boys are doing good things on and off the field. It’s a pleasure to be able to coach a group that is clicking so well and doing great things in all arenas. The on-field stuff is just the tip of the iceberg. If the boys look back and see this as a meaningful time in their lives, then that’s where the real accomplishment is.”