Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local Sports

June 3, 2014

G-Girls turn it on in second half, reach regional semifinals

EAST RIVER — Several members of the Graham girls soccer team weren’t feeling well on Monday, but no one — especially their opposition in a win-or-else scenario — was going to feel sorry for them.

Leading 1-0 after a sluggish opening half, Graham coach Hank Furry had a message for his team.

“I told them at halftime it is gut-check time,” Furry said. “I know we don’t feel good, we are not really playing very well right now, but right now our will has to be greater than our skill.

“We are just going to have to suck it up and do whatever is necessary to gut it out and get the win.”

They did. Morgan Whisman scored two goals, and Chelsey Minton added a goal and an assist to lead the G-Girls to a 4-1 Region 2A-West quarterfinal win over John Battle on Monday afternoon at East River Soccer Complex.

“Right now it is all about the ‘W’s’.” said Furry, who said there was ‘a lot of concern’ with at least four players feeling ill with stomach and other ailments during the game.

Up next for Graham (12-3-1) will be Glenvar in a regional semifinal tonight at East River beginning at 8 p.m., with the opportunity to not only qualify for the regional finals, but also for the 2A state tournament next week.

Feeling good or not, the G-Girls must be ready.

“I haven’t feeling good since this last Saturday, I am not sure what it was, but not many of us were feeling too hot today,” Whisman said. “We really have to feel good tomorrow so we can make it to the state tournament again,”

Graham got on the board first, although it took until the 33:22 mark of the opening half when freshman Caroline Kammer accepted a pass from Emily Carlisle on the left of the box and kicked the ball into the right corner of the net past John Battle goalkeeper Kylie Smith.

Whisman, who will attend East Tennessee State, but will not play soccer, said the G-Girls needed the halftime pep talk that followed from Furry.

“Hank said we have got to have that gut-check and we have got to go out from the beginning to go and push so after we get some goals in we can sit back and play our game,” Whisman said. “That is what we did. We came out and scored two in a row and later on we got another one, and we were finally playing G-Girl soccer like we’re used to.

“At halftime we really needed that talk where we have got to go out and push and we picked it up and I think we showed a little bit of how we can truly play.”

Graham wasted no time putting the game away, with Whisman gathering a pass from Minton in the box and sticking it in the net just 1:12 into the second half, and the G-Girls made it 3-0 just 2:39 later when Minton got a loose ball and kicked it past Smith.

John Battle (14-6-1) narrowed the margin to 3-1 with 31:25 left in the second half, with talented sophomore Sasha Haderer dribbling the ball  nearly the length of the pitch, kicked the ball toward the net, and Megan Fisher used her head to put the ball in the net, the only goal scored against Graham freshman goalkeeper Christina Mounzer.

“We had moments there where it looked like we were coming back, but we couldn’t get the momentum that we needed,” John Battle head coach Colleen Johnson said. “I am still proud of them. We lost seven seniors last year, and six of them were starters. It just shows a lot about those ladies’ work ethic for coming to the first round of regions.”

Whisman added her second goal 14 minutes later for the final margin, as the Graham frontline of Whisman, Kammer and Caroline Wilkinson proved to be the difference, a fact pointed out by an observer in the press box from  the Southern West Virginia King’s Warriors.

“They do a really job, Caroline Wilkinson is really fast, Caroline Kammer has got great skills, right now we are trying to mold her into Morgan Whisman next year,” said Furry, who also feels like senior Sondra Thorson can score for the G-Girls. “Morgan has got the motor and she runs for days and she had got both feet and she passes the ball well.

“Every good football team, even our football has to have a quarterback and that is who she is. We are real excited about what she does with the ball, but we are excited about what the other two do...”

Whisman, who was part of Graham’s Class A state runner-up team in 2012, has served as a mentor to both Furry and Wilkinson, and expects them to only get better in the future.

“I just say, ‘I was scared too death as a freshman too and I have grown as a player throughout the years being coached by my fellow teammates,’” Whisman said. “I am just trying to do the same thing to my underclassmen and tell them they just have to keep working at it and they are going to get better if they keep working and listening to the coaches and the people that can help them.

“I can’t wait to come back later on and see how much they have improved because they have improved just from the three months we have been playing. It is incredible and I love to see them play better and get better as a player and I love it.

“They are both two good friends of mine and I love to see them develop as players and as a person, I love helping them.”

Just 80 minutes from another state tournament berth, the G-Girls will face Glenvar, which advanced with a 1-0 win over Appomattox. The Highlanders also played state tourney favorite Radford tough this season, a club that Graham lost two twice this year.

“I know Glenvar gave Radford two really tough games and they are coming out of the Roanoke Valley,” Furry said. “They should be a pretty good team, they will have travel players on it, but right now we are a pretty good team.”

Whisman would agree. She expects the G-Girls to come out ready to play tonight, no matter how they feel on the inside.

“We can play better,” Whisman said. “Hopefully we can come out and show what we can really do tomorrow.”

—Brian Woodson at /

Twitter @bdtwoodson.

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