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Hat trick by Bearcats' Carroll dooms Blue Devils

By JOHNNY WILSON, Sports Correspondent • May 29, 2018 at 1:19 AM

BRISTOL, Va. — There was a time not too long ago when the Gate City boys soccer team ruled its district and much of Southwest Virginia, and third-year head coach Aaron Hillman feels the Blue Devils are working their way back toward the top.

Virginia High ended Gate City’s season Monday night with a 3-0 Region 2D quarterfinal decision at Sugar Hollow Park, but that did not diminish what the Devils accomplished in 2018.

“From Day 1 we talked about working our way back,” Hillman said. “We talked about being down in the valley at the start of the year and wanting to climb the mountain all season long.

“We don’t know how long the process is going to take, but I’ll tell ya that we’ve come leaps and bounds this season. I’m well pleased with the kids and very excited about moving forward.”

The Blue Devils, seeded fourth out of the Mountain 7 District, simply did not have enough bullets in their collective gun to deal with Lane Carroll, a senior who’ll play next season at UNC-Asheville.

A 5-foot-10, 150-pound brunette who dyed his hair blond several weeks ago, Carroll was golden all evening and scored all three Virginia High goals.

“We knew we had to stop number 10 but he scored a hat trick on us,” Hillman said. “We put a man on him the whole game and we tried our best — we just came up short.

“Virginia High is Virginia High, a quality bunch that is well coached. They didn’t waste any touches all game long and they kept the ball flowing upfield on us the entire game.”

WASTING NO TIME

The speedy Carroll didn’t hesitate to demonstrate his considerable ball skills, weaving through two defenders and beating Gate City keeper Luke Reed inside the game’s first three minutes.

“I had a guy on my back the whole game and the grass is kind of tall out here,” the forward said. “We couldn’t play as fast as we’d like, so I just decided to use my dribbling and passing more instead of just straight-ahead speed.

“Their guy (Reed) is one of the better keepers we’ve played all year, but no matter who’s in goal a low, hard shot is going to score.”

The top seed out of the Southwest District, Virginia High (14-5-1) led only 1-0 at halftime before two Carroll goals — one with 32:23 remaining and one in the 68th minute — put away the Blue Devils.

NOT REED’S FAULT

Carroll tipped his hat to Reed, an athletic freshman who stopped nearly 20 shots on goal.

“Like I said, he’s one of the better keepers we’ve played,” Carroll reiterated. “He can dive, he’s tall, he’s acrobatic. He did a really good job, I thought.”

Hillman, proud of his Blue Devils, agreed.

“I’ll go to war with that guy anytime, in any walk of life,” said Hillman, whose club only managed five shots on goal. “Luke’s an animal, a good guy, a leader, and he gives it everything he’s got.

“We knew coming in here was going to be tough, but I’m proud of my guys. But with this Gate City bunch we’ll take on anybody and we’ll get after it and be ready to play.”

NEXT UP

The victory sends the Bearcats, who got a shutout in goal from Taurean Bizzell, into tonight’s semifinals at Sugar Hollow Park, where they’ll meet Union.

The Bears edged Richlands 3-2 in their quarterfinal when Sean Simon scored on a last-minute header Monday night.

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