By TOM BONE
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
EAST RIVER —
It was a Workman-like day for the Graham girls soccer team on Tuesday.
Senior Liz Workman scored the last three goals in a 4-0 victory by the G-Girls over Tazewell County opponent Richlands on Tuesday on a windswept Field 4 at East River Soccer Complex.
“Everybody was working together,” said Workman, who now has five goals in Graham’s three matches. “With great midfielders like Morgan (Whisman) and Whitney (Browning), we were able to get the ball over top and take it down.”
Whisman, who assisted on Workman’s two second-half goals, said, “We kept pushing it. There’s no sense in holding back. We’re not going to back down, we’re just going to be strong. ... We’re just going to push.”
Meanwhile, goalkeeper Karly Morgan and her wall of defenders recorded a shutout, and drew praise from their coach.
“I’m really happy with the defense,” said head coach Hank Furry. “They were really working well. ... Teams are having a hard time getting through us.”
Sophomore Carolyn Springman and Furry’s daughter Kali, a senior, “make a good combination,” the coach said.
Senior Dawnna Metcalfe and junior Kelsey Gibberson, last year’s outside defenders, “have played a lot for us,” Hank Furry said. “They really understand how we like our set run.”
Graham (3-0) got off a dozen shots on goal, nine of them in the second half. The G-Girls demonstrated their eagerness to attack the goal from the start.
The match was in its 14th minute when a pair of G-Girls, Jessi Lewis and Caroline Kelley, tried to get through the Richlands defense from the left side.
That allowed just enough open space to their right for senior Whitney Browning to take advantage of a deflected ball and slash it across the goal line just inside the right post — using her left foot.
Richlands (1-1), which practices and plays home games on the artificial turf of Ernie Hicks Stadium, had trouble adjusting to the movement of the ball on a field of natural grass and some mud due to recent rains.
Head coach LaRhonda Lindsey said, “We haven’t been on any grass. We haven’t been on any mud. We weren’t ready for it today. ... We usually try to get on some grass (fields to practice). But with this weather, we had nowhere to go.”
She said, “We played flat. We were disorganized. We were not communicating.”
The match included the usual early-season mental lapses by both teams. A gusty wind, at times in excess of 20 miles per hour, was a hindrance as well.
Whisman said, “Yes, especially in the first half, the win would catch the ball and just pull it back. We all pushed through it, and we were able to get it over top even with the wind against us.”
The ball was in Richlands territory for much of the first half, but the Lady Blues made things exciting each time they took the ball down the pitch, courtesy of the speed of forwards Cassidy Richardson and Nadia Ashiq.
But the Graham defense kept Richlands from mounting a shot on goal in the first half.
Two minutes before the halftime whistle, Workman nailed her first score, chipping the ball in an arc above the head of Richlands goalkeeper Nikki Sparks.
She stretched and got her fingertips on the ball and it dropped to the grass, but it had enough momentum to roll into the goal for a 2-0 margin.
Sparks stayed busy, making four saves in the first 15 minutes of the second half. On the other end, Morgan stopped two shots on goal by Richardson.
Immediately after the second one, Graham quickly relayed the ball up the field. Whisman launched a long, perfect pass to Workman, who beat the keeper one-on-one for the game’s third goal in the 68th minute.
Workman said about the pass, “It shocked me. Then I was very thankful for that pass from Morgan.”
Four minutes later, the combination clicked again and Workan took Whisman’s assist between a couple of defenders for the final tally of the day.
Richlands senior Richardson had an uncharacteristically bad day in front of the opponent’s goal, and talented freshman Ashiq was shut out as well.
Richardson had a wide-open look at the goal late in the match after Morgan was lured away from the posts. The Richlands scoring mainstay delayed a fraction of a second too long, and missed the shot, to the left of the post.
Lindsey said, “Even when the ball did get to them today, they choked. It’s not typical. They’ve both been with basketball, and we have had them back a week.”
“They literally joined us last Monday. Then we had games on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. They had two or three days of practice.”
Looking ahead, the coach said, “We’ve got to get to work on some basics. ... They’ll get there. They’ve just got to find their touch.”
Graham’s Hank Furry had similar thoughts.
“We’re still trying to find our way,” he said. “We’re experimenting with various lineups. There have only been seven times we’ve been on grass, and three of them were during games.”
The G-Girls are learning how to operate without last year’s senior scoring star, Jessica Woodie.
Furry said he has moved away from last year’s strategies, but his current team “is caught between playing like we did last year and the way we need to play this year.”
He said he doesn’t impose a particular system on his players. “I formulate a system based on the girls we have, on their personalities and their talents,” he said.
Workman said, “We’re more of a team. Everybody’s working together, passing it to each other.”
Sparks had nine saves and Morgan stopped four tries.
Richlands, which had beaten Galax and won a pair of scrimmages, will aim to rebound from its first loss of the year when it hosts a rematch with the G-Girls next Tuesday. Graham is scheduled to play at Giles on Thursday afternoon.
— Contact Tom Bone at