Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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June 3, 2014

Wilkinson’s goal in final minutes give G-Girls victory

EAST RIVER — Caroline Wilkinson ran off the pitch in tears.

Call them tears of joy.

The Graham freshman scored in the 87th minute to break a scoreless tie, leading the G-Girls to a 1-0 Region 2A-West semifinal win over Glenvar on Tuesday night at the East River Soccer Complex.

Graham (13-3-1) will meet Radford for the Region 2A-West championship on Thursday, a team the G-Girls have lost to twice this season by identical 5-0 scores. Radford defeated Gate City 6-2 in the other semifinal match.

“I think if we all stick together and keep our heads up we can win,” Wilkinson said.

Graham, which reached the Group A state championship game two years ago, also returns to state action, no matter the outcome on Thursday, with games slated for next Friday and Saturday at Radford University.

Wilkinson remembers well watching then-Graham standout Jessica Woodie lead the G-Girls to the final game of the season in 2012.

“It felt nice to win, to go to the states with my team because I know we can make it all the way,” Wilkinson said. “I remember watching Jessica Woodie taking them to state and I am excited to take them now.”

While Graham will move on, the weary Highlanders (9-8-4) earned frequent driving miles, traveling north to Appomattox for a 1-0 win on Monday, and went the opposite direction 24 hours later to face Graham in Bluefield.

“It was a good game, give Graham a lot of credit, they possessed the ball well, passed the ball well,” Glenvar head coach Jay Goode said. “I think it took its toll, last night we played in Appomattox and then come back up here and play.

“We were a little worn out at the start of the game there, but give Graham credit, they played a great game and did a great job.”

After a scoreless first half in which both teams had limited opportunities, Graham had the ball for most of the first part of the second half, but Wilkinson, Caroline Kammer and Morgan Whisman couldn’t get the ball past Stinson, who made numerous saves in goal.

“They were a really good team. I don’t want to take anything away from them,’ Graham head coach Hank Furry said. “Defensively, they did a lot of great things, you saw the balls that we hit, the keeper was there a lot of times and she had a great punt.

“It was a great battle, two good teams going at it, it was a fun night.”

The ball switched sides for much of the final 20 minutes, with the Highlanders attacking the Graham goal, but freshman Natalya Curto and senior Alysia Leung continually deflected and kicked the ball away, giving Mounzer  just a few opportunities in goal.

McKenzie Meade, Kelsey Gibberson and Chelsey Minton were also productive on defense.

“(Natalya) is a really, really good player, that is another one of my super freshmen,” Graham head coach Hank Furry said. “She plays every minute of every game and she brings it every game.”

With just over three minutes and overtime apparently on the horizon, Graham finally got the ball in the open field, with Whisman dribbling the ball downfield and then using her left foot to kick the ball ahead toward Wilkinson, who was able to get behind the defense, with only Stinson in the way.

“I was nervous that I wasn’t going to make it, but I just kicked it as hard as I could,” Wilkinson said. “I hit it really hard in the corner.”

The Graham freshman found the ball near the right side of the goal and slapped it across the box and into the back of the net with 2:59 on the clock.

“It was not much she could have done there,” Goode said. “It was just a great shot, she got behind the defense. It was a great shot there, she hit it in the corner.”

Wilkinson, one of several G-Girls who have been battling illness early in the week, ran off the field in tears, while her teammates withstood a furious late rally to escape with the win.

“We kept trying to find a combination,” Furry said. “We knew their goalkeeper was really good and we felt like they matched up as equally as we did and we were just looking for that opportunity.

“Caroline, bless her heart, she is struggling with her bronchial passages that keep trying to close up on her. We just expected something good to happen.”

It did, at least for the G-Girls.

“Graham played an excellent game,” said Goode, whose Highlanders got steady play all night from Taylor White, Kelci Horner and Mattie Gillespie. “They were really good there.

“That 19 (Wilkinson) is a good player, and that goalie is pretty tough too.”

Graham will play Radford on Thursday at East River. Kickoff has been moved to 11 a.m. because the Bobcats have graduation that night.

—Brian Woodson at bwoodson@bdtonline.com

/ twitter @bdtwoodson.

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