Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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March 18, 2014

E-step ahead: Giles slips past G-Girls 2-1

EAST RIVER — Courtney Estep stepped up big for the Giles Spartans, scoring a goal late to lead her team to a 2-1 victory over the Graham G-Girls in the season opener for both teams, Tuesday evening at the East River Soccer Complex.

Estep’s goal, with about a minute to play, proved to be the game-winner on a blustery evening on Field No. 4, the game switched from Field No. 1, the usual game field, due to recent weather conditions that rendered the playing surface soft.

The G-Girls struck quickly, finding the back of the net in the game’s first minute as freshman Caroline Wilkinson collected her first varsity goal. That score stood until midway through the first half when Giles drew even.

Estep executed a corner kicks which was deflected and went into the Graham net to knot the game.

For the next nearly 60 minutes of game time the teams battled without either able to gain the advantage on the scoreboard. Both teams had shots on goal and goalkeepers for both schools were superb as they made numerous saves to keep the match tied at one apiece until Estep’s score late in the game.

“That’s the way you want to win it,” said Giles coach Eric Ruppert. “It was a great game. That (Graham) is a well coached team over there. I know they are young, so I am glad we got them today.”

Ruppert continued, talking about the play of his two goal keepers, Olivia Stiff and Alex Hawks.

“I’ve got a senior and a sophomore and they both played really well. It’s a nice way to start a season.”

Graham head coach Hank Furry said, “We’re a very young team this year. We return three starters and we’ve got about nine freshmen on this team. Every year we have been fortunate to have more than half of our starters come back, so the transition of the style we want to play is already kind of embedded into the team before we get started. We’re basically building from the bottom up this year. We feel like we are going to be pretty athletic.”

One area where Furry is impressed is goalkeeping. Freshman Christina Monsure had numerous saves during the opening game.

“One of our super freshmen,” Furry said. “I was real excited about Christina. She’s got great hands, great size and she does a nice job in there. She’s a freshman that played JV last year and a lot of her soccer was played at East River, so we’re going to be working on her to become a high school keeper.

“I’m excited with the way she plays.”

Despite the defeat, Furry was optimistic following the season opening match.

“Our defense, that’s a brand-new defense,” Furry pointed out. “The only returning starter on that defensive line is Kelsey Gibberson on the outside left.

“It’s going to be a growing time for us. We’re excited about what we’ve got and we’re going to keep on working. It’s not where we start, but where we end the season.”

Graham returns to the pitch on Friday, hosting Abingdon at the East River Soccer Complex.

— Contact Bob Redd

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