GATE CITY — Anna McClung’s newest cleats, a luminous shade of violet accented with a splash of orange, are an eye catcher. So is her play.
McClung, a freshman at Gate City, capped another breathtaking display with another breathtaking goal — part of a pivotal 7-3 win against Virginia High on Thursday at Legion Field. This one, her sixth of the day, closed the day’s scoring and came from the midfield circle. Yes, from midfield.
Bearcats goalkeeper Katie Crawford scarcely had settled herself following a clearance when McClung spotted an opening and let fly. There was a lone bounce, just behind the scrambling Crawford, before the ball found its way into the net.
“At halftime, I told her the goalkeeper was playing a high line,” Gate City coach Chris Mann said. “Put it up and over her, and Anna did that. Pretty amazing.”
McClung now has 35 goals in eight appearances. She is well within reach of the VHSL individual mark for goals in a season (51), established in 2006 by Allison Hunter of Tazewell.
The biggest question at the moment, meanwhile, is whether McClung will be available for Tuesday’s match at home against Lebanon. She limped off in the final minute with a left knee injury, the extent of which was unknown.
“Everyone was up and pumped and ready to go and then the injury at the end kind of brought everyone back down,” Mann said. “Kind of a bummer. Hopefully she will be OK.”
McClung opened the scoring after 12 minutes for the Lady Devils (6-1, 3-0 Clinch Mountain District), part of a first-half hat trick. She set up Blair Vaughn four minutes later with some hesitancy from Crawford, otherwise solid in goal, a factor in what was a cool finish from the sophomore. The Lady Bearcats (4-5, 2-1) scored thrice during a much-improved second half, but simply could not stop McClung.
“Man, (McClung) is a great player,” Virginia High coach Hunter Meade said. “Just her presence alone is amazing. She is smart, finds the right positions, plays great balls. I tried to mark her up man-to-man, but couldn’t do anything really to stop her.”
Mann said last week that the road to a CMD championship goes through Bristol. If so, his side is well on its way to a first-ever league crown.
“We’re 2-0 against Bristol teams and that’s where they say you have to go through in order to win the CMD,” Mann said. “I thought John Battle (last week) was our best game. This outdoes anything we’ve done so far, though. I can’t imagine how good this team is going to be if we keep playing like this.”
Later, in the nightcap, a pair of goals from Virginia High junior Ian Frye dealt the Gate City boys a second consecutive defeat, 2-1.
Frye’s eventual game-winner, a well-taken half-volley from a deflected cross, capped a frantic six-minute span in which all three goals were scored. Frye opened the scoring before Freddie Hicks, via a searching through ball from Phillip Head, leveled three minutes later.
Head (hamstring), along with forward Logan Byrd (shoulder), returned following two weeks out with injury for Gate City (5-2, 1-2). Byrd, who posed a consistent threat during the opening half of play, re-injured his shoulder just before halftime and did not return. His absence was glaring.
“As soon as Logan got hurt, you could just tell we suffered as a whole,” Blue Devils coach Brad Davis said. “We had a hard time getting the ball out of midfield. (Virginia High) controlled most of the play in the second half.
“In the first half, we just didn’t finish our chances. We could have had three or four (goals). That’s been the story all year for us.”