By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
EAST RIVER —
Find a way.
That will be the task this morning when the Graham girls soccer team meets Radford for the Region 2A West championship at East River Soccer Complex.
Kickoff is slated for 11 a.m. due to Radford’s graduation ceremonies taking place tonight.
While both the G-Girls and Bobcats will take part in the Group 2A state semifinals next week at Radford University, one team will go in with momentum as regional champs.
“I think if we all stick together and keep our heads up we can win,” said Graham freshman Caroline Wilkinson, whose late score gave the G-Girls a 1-0 win in the regional semifinals on Tuesday against Glenvar.
The task ahead won’t be easy for the G-Girls (13-3-1), who have lost twice by identical 5-0 scores to Radford, which is 21-0 on the season, including a 6-2 semifinal victory over Gate City on Tuesday.
Graham has faced tall tasks before, such as in 2012 when the G-Girls advanced to the Group A state championship game, falling in the finals to perennial power George Mason, which has won the last six state title.
“Radford has got a great passing group, they are a very seasoned team from a standpoint of all those girls play travel (ball),” Graham head coach Hank Furry said. “It is a David and Goliath type of situation, but we have been in that situation before.
“There were two teams we weren’t supposed to get through to get to the state championship a few years and we found a way to win. That is what we are going to have to do is we have to find a way to win.”
Radford, which defeated Altavista 6-1 in Monday’s quarterfinals, has dominated most of its opponents this season, collecting nine shutouts and scored at least five goals in 13 of those wins.
Among the teams that did give Radford problems this season was Glenvar. The Highlanders lost three times to the Bobcats, but the scores were 2-0, 5-1 and 2-1.
“Radford is tough, but if Graham plays like they did tonight, you never know,” Glenvar head coach Jay Goode said. “Graham played an excellent game, they were really good there.
“Give them credit, that 19 (Wilkinson) is a good player they have got and that goalie (Christina Mounzer) is pretty tough too.”
Wilkinson and fellow freshman Caroline Kammer — along with senior Morgan Whisman — are two of three potent scorers for the G-Girls, which has come as a surprise to at least one of the Carolines, who didn’t expect to play such a key role entering the season.
“No, I did not, but me and Caroline have known each other for a while,” said Wilkinson, who has played soccer with Kammer since third grade. “We kind of have a touch with each other.”
Graham also has the advantage of playing at East River, which is a large facility that plays into what the G-Girls like to do.
“We try to have our girls to play persistent,” Furry said. “We want to challenge every ball, and we want to be first to the ball.
“When we get teams out here on East River, we feel very confident playing on the big field because we train to run a lot, that is what we want to do.”
Furry noted that Gate City scored early against Radford on Tuesday, which could give the G-Girls a ray of hope to knock off the unbeaten Bobcats.
“Radford has beaten us twice, but we had good shots, good opportunities against them,” Furry said. “If we take the momentum we have right now, we saw some vulnerabilities tonight in Radford early, Gate City scored on them right off the get-go. We have just got to take it to them.”
That is normally what Radford likes to do, but in this particular scenario, where the season continues no matter the result, the G-Girls can play with nothing to lose.
“Radford plays soccer, we play soccer, but our style is not so much about trying to play every specific style of soccer there is or play a certain way,” Furry said. “We are trying to do what we do.
“We get in the passing lanes, we drop the ball back, we try to out-hustle teams and that is the one of the things that is a little bit different.”
Today’s winning team will play the Region 2A East runner-up next Friday at Radford University at 2 p.m. The losing team will play the Region 2A East champion next Friday at 4.
The championship is slated for June 14 at 2 p.m.
—Brian Woodson at firstname.lastname@example.org
/ Twitter @bdtwoodson.