Show off your holiday lights and you could win an iPad! Enter your photo by December 13. Winner will be selected by popular vote.
Last season marked the first time since 2006 that a team from the area didn't claim a VHSL boys soccer state championship in either Group A or Group AA.
The Roanoke Times | File 2012
Blacksburg forward Garland Smith (right) returns to a talented team that hopes to go deeper in Group AA tournament play.
The Roanoke Times | File 2012
Radford coach Greg Wade returns a team heavy with experienced senior players.
Wednesday, April 3, 2013
Winning a state title in boys soccer isn’t easy — even if Timesland teams have made it look that way for many years.
Last season marked the first time since 2006 that a team from the area didn’t claim a VHSL boys soccer state championship in either Group A or Group AA. And for the first time since 1997, Timesland didn’t have a boys representative in either title game.
But as teams thaw out from a prolonged winter and start playing regular schedules, several seem poised to put the region back where the action is in 2013.
Last year’s aberrational absence from the title games wasn’t for lack of trying — or talent. Jefferson Forest was undefeated heading into the Group AA semis, where it lost to Jamestown 3-2.
Perennial powerhouse Blacksburg went 21-2 and gave up only 10 goals all season. Unfortunately for the Bruins, four came against Tuscarora in a 4-1 defeat in the Group AA semis.
“We had a great season,” Blacksburg coach Shelley Blumenthal said. “We just didn’t have a great game, and we ran into an outstanding team. I think they had three Division I players, maybe more.”
The 2013 Bruins return future D-1 players of their own in senior midfielder Geinda Smith, a Colgate signee, and Radford University recruit Garland Smith. Senior Mitchell Williams, a leader in the midfield, will play next season at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.
Blacksburg has the nucleus to contend for its 12th state championship, but nobody there would take such an opportunity for granted. Not with the depth around the state only getting better.
“The thing about our sport is there’s little room for error,” Blumenthal said. “There’s a lot more scoring in a lot of other sports. That has an impact. … You really have to show up every game ready to play or else you’re going to be in trouble.”
Radford knows. The Bobcats went 18-3 and made the Group A semifinals last year before colliding with speedy Manassas Park, which scored a 4-1 victory.
Radford coach Greg Wade has guided 11 of his 13 teams to at least the state semifinals. But with the Spring Jubilee contested at Radford University, sometimes even that isn’t enough.
“There is a ton of pressure to show up in our hometown and make the title game,” said Wade, who steered the Bobcats to back-to-back championships in 2007-08. “I’ve had three principals tell me that they don’t even count anything until the state semifinals. People think it’s a given that you get there.”
The Bobcats are a solid bet to get there again this year. They have 11 seniors — the most in Wade’s tenure — led by midfielder Zach Turk, who will play at RU next year. Forward Caleb Findley, wing Carson Hooper and defender Juan Perez also figure prominently into the team’s fortunes.
Other potential title contenders include Galax, off to a 3-0 start after going 15-2-1 last year and making the Group A quarterfinals. Jefferson Forest, which topped Blacksburg for the title in 2011, has an established program that can weather graduation losses.
“They always return a solid group of players,” said Patrick Henry coach Chris Dowdy, whose team fell to the Cavaliers 1-0 on March 26. “They have size. They have athletes…I think they’re going to make it back to where they’ve made it the past several years.”
Patrick Henry won the Western Valley District regular-season title last season but lost twice to Franklin County, including in the district tournament title game.
The upstart Eagles were led by All-Timesland goalkeeper Mac Phillips, who has moved on to William & Mary, and the Patriots appear to be in good position to reclaim their place as the WVD standard-bearer. One of the reasons is midfielder Emmanuel Scere, who has made a verbal commitment to Virginia.
“He’s easily the best athlete on the field in any game for both teams,” Dowdy said of the 6-foot, 180-pound junior. “A very dominant physical presence.”
PH’s four-player senior class is led by Zach Paget, a two-time all-district selection and a potential WVD player of the year candidate.
“He’s probably our best finisher, our most savvy attacker,” Dowdy said.
Zach’s twin brother, Alec, opted not to play this season to concentrate on track, but the Paget pipeline continues. Their younger brother, Christian, has taken over in goal as a freshman.
Alleghany’s Patrick Burns scored six goals in a season-opening win over James River, then found the net eight times against Bath County on March 28. … Cave Spring, led by first team all-region forward Kyle Gunville, started the season 4-0. … A deep River Ridge District also includes Hidden Valley, led by forward Tyler Blankenship, and Jack Maxey-led Salem.
Weather Journal70 Thursday to ice Sunday?