The Lady Blue Devils’ freshman sensation tallied six goals and led Gate City to an impressive 7-1 win over John Battle in Wednesday’s Clinch Mountain District girls soccer title game at Sugar Hollow Park.
After winning its first-ever CMD regular-season championship, Gate City backed that up with its first league tournament crown.
With the victory, the Lady Devils (16-1-0) will host a VHSL state quarterfinal matchup on Tuesday at Sugar Hollow against the Region C runner-up. Battle (12-6-1) must travel to take on the Region C champion that same night.
From the outset, the Lady Trojans focused almost entirely on stopping McClung. She was marked closely by at least two players and when she touched the ball the Battle defense immediately collapsed on her.
McClung, who set the VHSL single-season goals record in her last outing and now has 62 goals for the season, broke free from the smothering Lady Trojans’ defense nine minutes into the game and lashed a shot from 20 yards out that found the back of the net.
Battle’s defense regrouped and held McClung in check into the final minute of the first half.
Muscling her way through the Lady Trojans’ back line, McClung got just of the right post almost to the byline before snapping off a shot that streaked inside the far post, sending the Lady Devils to the halftime break with a 2-0 lead.
Four minutes into the second half, Gate City’s Karissa Castle slipped a pass to Blair Vaughn who one-timed the ball into Battle’s net and suddenly the score was 3-0.
Back on their heels, the Lady Trojans had hardly caught their collective breath when McClung scored three goals in 14 minutes to put the game on ice.
“We were physical with her in the first half,’’ said Battle head coach Jeff Blevins. “But we ran out of gas in the second half and couldn’t handle her.
“She’s the real deal.”
Battle’s Lindsey Bower made sure the Lady Trojans didn’t come up empty. When the Gate City defense failed to clear a corner kick, Bower pounced on the loose ball and sent it into the net with 15 minutes left in the contest.
McClung answered back when she took a pass from teammate Danielle Gilespie and netted her sixth goal in the 67th minute, providing the final margin of victory.
“I think that late goal in the first half took some air out of them,’’ said McClung. “We didn’t finish well in the first half but did a better job of that in the second.’’
Complimenting Gate City’s offensive show was a stingy defense. Led by Dallas Burton, Ashley Lawson, Maria Byrd and Holly Musick, the Lady Devils backline limited Battle to just five shots on goal, only one of which caused harm.
“We were standing around too much in the first half,’’ said Gate City head coach Chris Mann. “Battle got tired in the second half so we kept pushing knowing we’d break them eventually.’’