BRISTOL, Va. — Gate City's boys and girls soccer teams each got off to a fast start on Wednesday, netting a goal apiece in the 3rd minute of their respective semifinal matches in the Clinch Mountain District soccer tournament.
But by the time the final seconds wound off the clock, both the Blue Devils and Lady Blue Devils found themselves in full survive-and-advance mode. The Gate City boys held on for a 2-1 victory over a determined John Battle squad to advance to the district title game while the Lady Devils escaped with a 1-0 victory over an inspired Virginia High squad.
Both teams will return to Sugar Hollow Park on Friday to play for a district title. The Devils will face Virginia High, a 2-1 winner over Union while the Lady Devils will play Central, which came back from a 1-0 deficit to beat John Battle 3-2.
The Lady Blue Devils got their early goal when MeKayla Richardson found Megan Edwards, who scored her 42nd goal of the season just 2 minutes and 40 seconds into the game. But the Lady Bearcats clamped down on Edwards and Gate City had to make that lone goal stand up for the rest of the game.
Thanks to a team effort on defense, the Lady Devils were up to the task.
"We have an outstanding defense," Gate City girls' coach Chris Mann said. "Those girls know how to play. I felt like we really controlled the game. We had the ball and it's hard for them to make runs if we're controlling the ball."
With Andi Thorton marking Edwards, Gate City's greatest scoring threat was reduced to playing the role of decoy for much of the game.
"She kind of pulled herself away a little bit to try to stretch the defense and open it up, because when she gets the ball in there in the middle, they just collapse on her because they can't handle her," Mann said.
The Lady Bearcats very nearly tied the game in the waning moments when Cara Clark got loose on a breakaway, but Gate City goalie Kyra Jessee was there to keep the sheet clean.
In the boys' contest, the Blue Devils got a goal from Tucker Alley in the 3rd minute and got some insurance when Neth Gardner found the back of the net in the 21st minute. Gate City went into the half up 2-0.
"That's what I was trying to stress today — come out with purpose and play with purpose because we knew (the Trojans) were do-or-die," Gate City boys' coach Eric Baker said. "They had nothing to lose."
And in the second half, Battle played like it. After cutting the lead to 2-1, the Trojans kept the pressure on throughout the second half and appeared to score the equalizer on a header in the 68th minute, but the referee disallowed the goal.
The Devils used a frantic defensive effort from there in order to punch their ticket into the title game.
Baker said it was difficult to hold off a team playing with as much fire as Battle was in the closing moments.
"We tried to move some numbers back and do a few things, but all in all, a win's a win," Baker said. "We move on to the finals."comments powered by Disqus