Once the official clock started ticking, she had about 20 seconds to brace herself.
Region C champion Radford bombarded Richards with 33 shots — 26 on goal — as the Bobcats rolled to a 12-0 victory over the visiting Lady Blue Devils, who made the state tournament in the fledgling program’s first season of existence.
“I was prepared for it. I knew this was going to be a hard game. It was a lot harder than what we’re used to down at Gate City and in our region,” said Richards, who collected 14 saves. “It was a lot of work but it will help me and we’ll progress in the years to come.”
There was 39:40 on the clock when Radford’s Pip Pattison sent a shot that sailed about a foot over the crossbar. The Bobcats (20-2) were just getting zeroed in.
After two more shot attempts, one of which Richards gathered in, Alex Gillespie found the back of the net in the fourth minute off a Mary Wiley assist. A minute later, Wiley slipped a cross close in to Anna Witkowsky, who finished it for the 2-0 lead.
Gate City’s defenders tried their best to keep the shooters off Richards. But the Bobcats were extremely efficient at what they do, having averaged double-digit goals over their past five outings.
“The system of play that we use is high pressure. It’s not a possession style. Basically, the whole point of it is to score as many goals as fast as you can. If you give up a few along the way, you do. But you’re banking on the fact that you can attack quicker than the other team can,” said Radford coach Lee Boehling, who led the Bobcats to a Group A championship in 2007.
Wiley drove an unassisted goal past Richards from 15 yards out in the eighth minute. It was the first goal of a Wiley hat trick that sealed the senior forward’s place in the VHSL record books. When Wiley scored her third goal for the 8-0 lead in the 21st minute off a Witkowsky feed, it was goal No. 52 for the 2009 campaign — a VHSL single-season record for all classifications.
Wiley, who’ll play for Radford University this fall, wasn’t even aware that the state record was within striking distance.
“No one told me about it. When (the announcer) said the 51 thing, that was the first I’d heard about it. I had no idea how many goals I’d scored this year,” said Wiley, who got her second goal to tie the state record roughly a minute after her first, also off a Witkowsky assist.
“I was really nervous because we’d never seen Gate City before. Everyone else was nervous, too. It just made us play better.”
Witkowsky collected three goals and three assists during the first-half barrage. Pattison added a goal to go with her assist. Gillespie added another goal in the second half, with Conner Fowler adding two second-half goals and Carty Flora accounting for another.
Boehling pulled Wiley, Pattison and Witkowsky after Wiley’s record-breaking goal and only used Pattison sparingly in the second half.
“It can be difficult to manage the score to a certain extent because no matter who you put in, you’re still playing the same high-pressure system,” Boehling said. “My hat’s off to Gate City for a first-year program getting as far as they have. This is going to be good for them.”
Lady Blue Devils coach Chris Mann, whose squad’s maiden voyage ended at 10-6 overall, was inclined to agree.
“We knew coming in that Radford was one of the better teams in the state. We just wanted to see how we need to grow in order to become one of the top teams in the state,” said Mann, who’d dyed his beard blue for the match. “I think we’re going to take this and learn a lot from it.”