Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local Sports

June 11, 2014

Tall task ahead: 6-time champs await G-Girls

BLUEFIELD — If the Graham High girls soccer team is to advance past a powerhouse team in Friday’s state semifinal match, the G-Girls will have to play “high-risk, high-reward” soccer.

That’s the attitude of head coach Hank Furry as Graham (13-4-1) prepares to meet George Mason High School (22-0) in the Group 2A semifinals in Salem. The Mustangs have won six straight VHSL state girls soccer championships.

“It’s going to be a tall task, playing a six-time defending state champion,” Furry said on Tuesday. “They’re a tremendous program, a tremendous power, (but) we’re not worrying about other teams and the kind of soccer they play.”

“We’re going to have to play high-risk, high-reward soccer. We’re going to have to take chances ... from the time the whistle blows.”

“We need to be smart with what we do with the ball and try not to turn it over,” he said. “We’re a very smart team.”

“We need to force the action and not be caught standing back. ... We’re one win away from the state championship game. We have to go with the attitude of playing as hard as we can and as smart as we can.”

“We need to be the aggressor from here on out. The quality we’re playing against will be tremendous.

“It’s a daunting task in front of us, but we’re athletic enough, if we can keep them from getting into their passing scheme, if we can keep them from forcing us to change (how we play), we’ve got a good chance of pulling a major, major upset.”

“It’s a huge turf field, so it’s going to be really, really fast,” Furry said about the field in Salem. “I feel we’re a pretty athletic team. I told them we’re not going out there to earn style points but we’re going out to win the game.”

• • •

The coach said he has been pleased to see help on offense coming from “different people” in recent matches.

He said, “We got the lone goal to beat Glenvar in the (regional) semifinals by Caroline Wilkinson. We’ve gotten scoring from Caroline Kammer. Morgan (Whisman) has been the consistent foot through the season.”

Jennifer Bay scored the only goal in last Thursday’s 6-1 loss to Radford in the regional final, he noted. “Sondra Thorson did an outstanding job against some tremendous pressure against Radford,” Furry said.

“Our defense has been extremely solid all year,” he said. “Alysia Leung, she has consistently done well along with Natalya Curto in the middle. I don’t know if there are any defenders who run as much as they do, game in and game out.”

McKenzie Meade stepped in at goalkeeper and had “a really huge game,” Furry said.

“It’s been great to see all these different folks step it up.”

• • •

Graham and George Mason met two years ago in the Group A state finals, and the Mustangs won 4-0 to bring yet another state trophy back to their school in Falls Church, part of the Washington, D.C., metro area.

This year, the Virginia High School League converted to a structure based on conferences, east and west regions, and six “group” state championships.

Graham is in the Group 2A final four as runners-up from Region 2A West, the result of last week’s loss to Radford in the G-Girls’ 2014 finale at East River Soccer Complex.

“When we began the season, one of the things we wanted was to get back in the state championship,” Furry said. “We wanted to win the conference and do well in the region. Finishing as regional runner-up was huge for us.”

He said that Graham is very different from the other three schools in this year’s final four. “One (George Mason) is a charter school, then you’ve got a governor’s school (Maggie Walker), and a city team (Radford),” he said.

“All the others are loaded with kids that play travel soccer and want to play on at the collegiate level. ... We feel like we represent this part of the state, and all of the schools that aren’t anchored by travel soccer.”

“A lot of people don’t give us a lot of credit for how hard we play,” he said. “We could be the little school that knocks off some of the biggies — which is something we did three years ago.

“Clarke County was another strong, strong travel-based program, and we ended up beating them to advance to the state championship.”

Past history would indicate that Graham is not about to run up the surrender flag.

“We are truly the underdog,” Furry said. “We’re excited about the challenge. At the end of the day, if we win, we reach the title game again. If we lose, we can say we’re one of the four best teams in 1A and double-A.”

“To be the little school from our end of the state, and to be in the final four, we see things already as a win. Schools from the New River Valley and back this way don’t get the opportunity often to go and be in the final four.”

“Everything we do is positive. We’re happy we’ve made it this far and we’re competing at the state level,” he said.

“We’re pretty excited.”

— Contact Tom Bone at tbone@bdtonline.com

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