Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

April 9, 2013

Seniors seek to leave G-Girls soccer a ‘legacy of excellence’

By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

BLUEFIELD, Va. — A 19-2 record, a Region C championship and a berth in the Group A state championship game made it a season to remember for the Graham G-Girls.

Six seniors, including 209-goal scorer Jessica Woodie and defensive specialist Kaylan Stanley, have departed, meaning the G-Girls are in rebuilding mode.

Right?

Not even close.

Graham girls soccer coach Hank Furry thinks the current group of 10 seniors are prepared to leave a legacy of excellence with a big season ahead.

“They want to put an exclamation point on the program,” Furry said. “One thing about being part of Graham athletics out here, all of us here in the athletic program, that is always our goal.

“For the girls soccer program, last year was a surprise, but it really wasn’t because we did have a good team.”

Very good. Graham lost just twice all season. The G-Girls defeated Clarke County in the Group A semifinals and then lost to five-time defending state champion George Mason 4-0 in the finals.

That was Graham’s first-ever trip to a state soccer championship game, but Furry doesn’t want it to be the last.

“What we really want to do is get to that point every season,” Furry said.  “We want to be the team from way down here that everybody is scared of in northern Virginia because we are capable of beating them.

“That is kind of what drives the girls and drives me to coach them the way that I coach them.”

Despite the loss of six seniors, including Woodie, Stanley and fellow captain Alanah Miller, the G-Girls have started strong in a weather-ravaged start to the season, compiling a 4-1 record, scoring 15 goals and allowing just four, including its lone loss, a 2-0 decision at Radford on Monday.

Graham has defeated Floyd County (2-0), Giles (3-1), Richlands (4-0) and Tazewell (6-1) and has had four other matches rescheduled by weather.

“I am really, really happy with where we are coming considering the amount of time we have not able to get outside,” said Furry, during an interview last week. “You saw in the first game components of last year’s team trying to run the set the same way we did last year and how we ran the set.

“As each game goes on we are beginning to find our own chemistry.”

Furry is looking to allow this group of G-Girls to build their own identity on the pitch.

“I am a little different, a lot of coaches have a set and they try to build based on the set that they enjoy or what they want to run for their team,” Furry said. “My philosophy is I first look at all the girls and try to build a set that best fits the personalities that we have.”

So far so good.

“This group is really upbeat,” Furry said. “Every day at practice they are full of energy and excitement and I think that drives me.”

Graham, which had posted a 36-4 record over the last two seasons, was led for four season by Woodie, who was a scoring machine. The G-Girls are looking for scorers this year, and have found them, led by Liz Workman, who has scored seven goals in four games.

Whitney Browning, Jessie Lewis and Chelsey Minton have two goals each for the G-Girls, while Kali Furry and Morgan Whisman have one apiece.

“I think (the loss of Woodie) is good and bad. The good is now as an opponent you have to focus on us as a team instead of trying to focus on stopping Jessica Woodie from scoring,” Furry said. “The down side is as a coach knowing there was so much emphasis put on her that it allowed us to do other things with the ball we are not going to have the opportunity to do this year.”

There was also the loss of Stanley, who was just as important to the G-Girls on the other end of the pitch.  

“Kaylan Stanley’s foot was so big in the back that it was always like having another midfielder,” Furry said. “You would like to play with five midfielders. Well. last year I got away playing with five because even though she never came up to the midfield.

“Her foot was so big it was like having a midfielder, and what she brought to us on corner kicks and set kicks so we are finding our way.”

Defensively, Graham also has plenty of returnees, including Kali Furry, who will take Stanley’s place as sweeper, along with Kelsey Gibberson and Dawnna Metcalf, and returning goalkeeper Karly Morgan.

“Kali is trying to fill Kaylan’s shoes playing the sweeper back and Karly Morgan, since she was a freshman, has had at least a dozen or more shutouts so we continue to get big games from her out of goalkeeping,” Furry said. “We were very fortunate to get our two outside backs in back from last year, Kelsey and Dawn, so we have got a lot of girls back.

“We actually have seven or roughly eight starters returning of last year’s team.”

A quick look at the Graham roster and it’s easy to notice the numerous positions that listed next to their names, including four spots for Furry and three apiece for Browning, Morgan, Workman, Morgan Whisman and Alysia Leung.

That is by design.

“The difference this year is we always preach about being able to play multiple positions and this year we are really spreading four to five girls all over,” Furry said. “You may even see Liz Workman, because she is such a good athlete, we have already tapped her to possibly play some goalkeeping this season.

“She has spent her whole career for me starting out on the defense and playing offense and now she is starting on the offense so we have got a lot of different people out there that we are going to rely on.

“So far we don’t have any weak link in this team from the standpoint of putting somebody in and not getting some kind of contribution from them.”

While Furry is excited for the season ahead, he is also thinking ahead to the future, with a roster that includes 12 underclassman, three of whom are freshman playing on the varsity squad.

“One of the things we try to do is try to not just work on this season, but build toward next season too,” Furry said. “I think we are going to graduate (10) seniors this year and we have a big junior varsity group of girls and all those girls will probably end up playing varsity next year.

“We kept the three ninth graders that came out this year and I think they are going to make big contributions for us down the road.”

Furry is trying to build more than a team, he wants a program that is good on an annual basis. His formula appears to be working.  

“We are constantly trying to climb the ladder,” Furry said. “Practice is an important way to gain steps. The girls understand we are only going out to get out of game what we put into it.”

— Contact Brian Woodson

at bwoodson@bdtonline.com