Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

April 4, 2013

G-Girls want one more

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

BLUEFIELD, Va. — To ask the girls themselves, it was ‘cool’ and it was ‘crazy’.

Imagine how the Graham G-Girls’ soccer team will feel if they can win one more game, and bring home the Class A state championship.

That is the plan.

“I think that is the team’s goal,” Graham senior Whitney Browning said. “To get back to where we were last year and hopefully even win the state championship.”

They came, oh so close, last season, finishing 19-2, winning the Region C championship, beating Clarke County in the state semifinals and then falling to George Mason 4-0, the Mustangs’ fifth straight state title.

“It was really cool,” Browning said. “I had never been with a team all the way to the state finals before, and it was a great group to be with too because we all really got along.”

While that success may have been seen as a surprise, the G-Girls were confident and talented, having finished 17-2 in the previous season in their final season in Group AA.

“It was crazy, but we knew that we had the tools to get there,” Graham senior Kali Furry said. “We just had to make sure we worked hard the whole season and not let late school activities that happen during the spring time make us lose our focus.”

Seniors like Woodie, Stanley and fellow captain Alanah Miller simply wouldn’t let the prom, senior trips or graduation interfere with the soccer season.

“We all stayed focused, the seniors made sure we stayed focused, especially Kaylan and Jessica, they made sure we would be at practices,” Furry said. “We had fun at practice, but we didn’t goof off.”

Both Woodie — who scored an amazing 209 goals in four seasons — and Stanley — who committed to play soccer at Lees-McRae College — are gone,  but the current collection of G-Girls are adjusting to their absence, and it has shown on the pitch.

“We have just utilized more players on the team, using different players and meshing differently and we are learning to pass the ball around,” Browning said. “We are still working, but we are getting better.”

It has shown in four games for the G-Girls, who are 4-0 on the season, with a bus trip slated for Abingdon today, as always, weather permitting.

Graham played its third games as scheduled, defeating Floyd County (2-0), Giles (3-1) and Richlands (4-0) in a seven-day stretch from March 12-19, but didn’t play again until Wednesday’s 6-1 victory at Tazewell.

When they have played, the G-Girls have been impressive, recording 15 goals in four games, while allowing just two goals to the opposition.

“I know there have been a few games we could have finished and probably scored more goals,” Browning said, “but I think we have done very well so far.”

The G-Girls went 14 days without playing a game and rarely even got outside to practice, and the forecast isn’t favorable for today, with snow, sleet and cold temperatures returning to the area, and keeping the G-Girls saddled in the gym.

Graham has had to reschedule three games that were lost due to the weather.

“It is kind of crazy with all the snow, it would be nice if it would get warmer because we really haven’t got to practice outside but probably five times,” said Furry, whose father, Hank, is the coach of the G-Girls. “We have played outside for games, but that is still not the same where we need to get our technical skills down.”

Much of the focus over the last four seasons for the G-Girls was Woodie, who was as close to a scoring machine as you will find on the pitch.

Through four games, the G-Girls have compensated with teamwork, and getting most of the roster of 22 involved.

Among those who have stepped up is senior Liz Workman, who has scored seven goals in four games, including a hat trick in the win over Richlands.

“We are going to have to look for a new scorer, and Liz Workman has been able to do that for us with getting her a hat trick in the last game,” said Furry, a week prior to the G-Girls’ win over Tazewell.

Among the contributions for the G-Girls was a goal apiece from Furry and Morgan Whisman in the opener against Floyd County, and Workman followed with two goals and Jessie Lewis added one in the win over Giles.

Workman had three goals at Richlands, while Browning added one goal and Whisman dished out two assists.

That is when the weather interfered, keeping the G-Girls on the sidelines for two weeks, but they picked right up against archrival Tazewell, with Workman and Chelsey Minton scoring two goals each, while Browning and Lewis each scored once against the Bulldogs. Whisman and Lewis also had two assists apiece, with one dish coming from Torri Bradshaw.

Graham was dominant, leading 3-0 at the half, while taking 13 shots on goal and never did allow the Bulldogs an attempt on goal, making it a stress-free evening for G-Girls’ goalkeeper Karly Morgan.

While offense is important in soccer, defense usually wins games, and the G-Girls know that. What Woodie was to the Graham offense, Stanley was to the defense, and it is Furry who has inherited that all-important sweeper position.

“With defense we lose Kaylan, her long kicks, her free kicks that she takes, her corner kicks, her goal kicks, we lose that and we lose her ability just telling us that we need our jobs done,” Furry said. “We are going to lose that, but I think we will be fine.

“We just have to be able to be more conditioned than all the other teams and just work a lot harder.”

That tendency to work hard is nothing unusual for the G-Girls, who have made it pay off, compiling a 36-4 record over the last two seasons, and don’t think that Graham isn’t still a serious threat for a return trip to the state tournament at Radford University in June.

“We want to get back to states,” Furry said. “We want to be shown on that (marquee) twice.”

 Ask Furry or Browning — both of whom will play soccer at Bluefield College in the fall — what it will take to make that happen, and ‘hard work’ are the first two words to come to mind.

“Hard work, be able to run teams, get a quick lead,” Furry said, “and make sure they don’t get past the 18 (yard box).”

It wasn’t an echo. Browning started out her answer much the same.

“Hard work,” Browning said. “Lots and lots of practice together and just teamwork is basically what is going to get us there.”

—Contact Brian Woodson