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Led by Poulsen hat trick, Knights breathe easy

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The deeper you go, the tougher it gets. Usually.

Cave Spring’s boys soccer team experienced an exception to that truism on Tuesday.

After closing the region tournament with back-to-back one-goal victories that jangled their nerves, the Knights got a first-half hat trick from Seth Poulsen and breezed to a 4-1 triumph over visiting Monticello in the VHSL Class 3 quarterfinals.

“Especially as a defender, it was very nice not to be like, ‘Oh, I can’t let even one goal in,’” Knights fullback Cane Fetzer said. “We wanted more in the second half, but the large lead made us more comfortable in the back, for sure.”

Added Poulsen after his third career hat trick: “It was a relief, to be honest. We didn’t really want to back off.”

Cave Spring (15-4-2) advances to Friday’s state semifinals in Fredericksburg. The Knights will face Region B champion Meridian, which defeated Lafayette 4-0 on Tuesday.

Poulsen netted three times in the opening 25 minutes to make moving on a probability. Two of his goals came on close-range follow-ups after Monticello keeper Brady Garrett saved shots from distance.

On his other goal, Poulsen drove along the end line on the right side of the goal. When his pass toward the 6-yard box was blocked but not cleared, the senior took a touch around a defender and scored from a sharp angle.

“Poulsen is a unit,” Fetzer said. “He always is the hardest worker on the field. It doesn’t matter that he’s not the biggest; he makes himself known.”

The defending region player of the year, Poulsen began this season as a central midfielder before moving up top for the second half of the campaign. His goals have been impactful for a Cave Spring team that’s conceded just 13 times in 21 matches.

“If you have a stone wall in the back, you’re set,” Poulsen said. “All you’ve got to worry about is offense, which is nice.”

Junior midfielder Martin Hanson pressed the Cave Spring lead to 4-0 in the 34th minute with a blast from outside the 18-yard box, capping a pressure-filled sequence by the Knights attack.

Monticello coach David Rivera praised the organization of Cave Spring, which used a committee approach to contain talented Mustangs midfielder Jake Monroe. Fetzer thwarted one of Monticello’s best scoring chances in the first half, swooping in to prevent a breakaway from Monroe.

“Great coverage there on the back side,” Cave Spring coach Brad Collins said. “We were clued in on [Monroe]. We knew about him, everybody’s raving about him, so that was our No. 1 goal was to stop him. He still managed to beat some guys off the dribble — multiple players.”

The Knights will take plenty of confidence from beating Monticello (9-12-1) into Friday’s game, even if things will get tougher from here.

Presumably.

“We play in a tough district,” Collins said. “We play the PHs and the Blacksburgs and the Christiansburgs, so when we get to this playoff time of the year, we feel very prepared.

“We’ve had some good results against Blacksburg and PH. We’re not going to see teams that are on a different level than those guys.”

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