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Eastern Montgomery girls soccer wins school's first state title

Eastern Montgomery girls soccer wins school's first state title

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The Eastern Montgomery High School girls soccer team celebrates Wednesday after receiving their school’s first-ever state championship trophy.

WEST POINT — A girls soccer team from the western part of the state called Eastern Montgomery headed east Wednesday to play a team called West Point.

Only in 2021.

Something else happened only in 2021.

Something historic.

Those Eastern Montgomery girls who traveled nearly 300 miles came home with the first state championship trophy in the history of the school in any sport.

VHSL Class 1 final: Eastern Montgomery 5, West Point 1. And it wasn’t that close.

Neither was anything else all season for the Mustangs, who finished 14-0 and outscored their opponents 118-1

EastMont’s football team reached the 2010 Division 1 championship game, and the basketball team was the state runner-up later in the same school year.

So it was left for the girls soccer program that former principal Danny Knott started in 2018 to be the first group of Mustangs to bring home the gold.

“When the girls’ parents started this program they pushed for it and pushed for it,” EastMont coach Whittney Shaver said. “They knew they had something special when they wanted this program and they were right.”

Put sophomore Maddie Bruce at the top of the list.

Bruce fit her teammates for the crown by scoring a hat trick in the first half as the Mustangs took a 3-1 lead after 40 minutes.

“She’s big. She can play with her back to the goal all day long,” West Point coach Paul Diggs said. “She distributes well. My girls have not seen that kind of organization all season.

“We have not seen that kind of competition. You try to coach them how to play fast, but if you don’t play [against] that, it’s hard to figure out until you play somebody that plays that way.

Sophia Diggs — the coach’s daughter — gave West Point its only lead with the game’s first goal and the only goal allowed by EastMont all season, on a direct free kick in the 18th minute.

However, the Mustangs already had tilted the field with several promising scoring opportunities.

Lilly Underwood banged a shot off the left post in the eighth minute, and Bruce was denied point blank by overworked goalkeeper Kate Payne.

The echo from Underwood’s ringing shot was still fresh as the Mustangs kept up the full-scale assault, eventually tying the game in the 30th minute when Bruce scored on a breakaway.

The talented 10th grader put EastMont up 2-1 in the 35th minute by hammering home her second goal after impressive footwork by Madeline Mirolli led to an assist that left Bruce in the clear.

Bruce made it 3-1 in the 37th minute, striking a laser with her left foot that bounced off Payne’s hands into the goal.

Surrendering the early goal motivated the Mustangs more than it shocked them.

“It was a little scary at first, right?” Shaver said. “I think it definitely increased their desire to dig deep and go for it.”

EastMont ended all doubt midway through the second half as senior Elli Underwood and junior Laken Smith got free in the box for goals.

West Point had come closer than any EastMont opponent all season, but it was not enough.

“It feels great,” Bruce said. “It feels absolutely amazing.”

A large contingent of supporters from the Shawsville-Elliston corridor made the long trip east.

“The community is excited, their parents are excited,” Shaver said.

The journey to the state final was a long road with a lot of twists and turns just in getting the program off the ground.

“It was crazy, surreal,” Elli Underwood said. “We never expected it to happen because there was so much pushback. But we started getting it rolling. It was really exciting.”

East Mont 5, West Point 1

Eastern Montgomery 3 2 — 5

West Point 1 0 — 1

West Point goal — S.Diggs.

Eastern Montgomery goals — Bruce 3, E.Underwood, Smith.

Contact Robert Anderson at robert.anderson@roanoke.com or 981-3123

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