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Eastern Montgomery wins second consecutive girls Class 1 soccer title

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Eastern Montgomery's girls soccer team poses for a photo with the trophy after winning its second consecutive Class 1 state championship on Saturday.

Nothing changed but the winner’s prize.

Said reward was the Eastern Montgomery girls soccer team’s second Class 1 state championship trophy in a row, granted after the Mustangs’ 4-0 dismissal of longtime rival Auburn on Saturday afternoon on the artificial surface at Roanoke College’s Donald J. Kerr Stadium.

As for the similarity of results this season for these former district rivals each from Montgomery County, this was the fourth time the teams played and Saturday’s outcome established once and for all, at least in this campaign, that it’s been all Mustangs.

Including the regional title game that set the stage for the meeting in the final, EastMont won all four clashes by the composite count of 20-2.

One more numerical fact of note was the extension of a 32-game winning streak. That took how long?

“The last time we lost was the state semifinals four years ago,” Mustangs coach Whittney Shaver said.

Regardless of talent — and EastMont has plenty of that — winning back-to-back titles is far from automatic.

“This team was definitely different than last year’s team,” midfielder Madison Bruce said. “We had some holes to fill and we did it. We faced obstacles. We got the job done.”

The title tilt domination was reflected by the final margin, the Mustangs (18-0) scoring twice in each half. Auburn (16-5) stayed bottled up in its end of the pitch all afternoon. The Eagles, who played it safe for the most part with tightly arrayed defensive formations, never took a shot on goal.

“We knew they were good — they’re very talented, so we didn’t want to get exposed,” Auburn coach Adam Ritchie said.

Eagles attackers were rarely close enough to the goal to offer a credible shot attempt. For that, part of the credit goes to a Mustangs back line that proved all but impenetrable.

“We have a very solid defense,” said one of the fullbacks, junior Lilly Underwood. “I love my defenders. We work together as best as we can.”

The other three regulars on the last line of defense are Morgan Bahken, Laken Smith, and Mackenzie Kidwell.

“We’ve given up more goals than last year but not many more so that’s OK,” Underwood said.

Underwood scored the first EastMont goal 28 minutes into the proceedings. It started with an attack from the left wing by swift-footed freshman Aija McHone, who was close and near the middle of the frame when she became tangled in traffic and fell to the deck.

The Mustangs were awarded a free kick in the ensuing contact. Underwood handled the honors and went high with her shot handled briefly upon impact at arrival before trickling through.

Four minutes later, McHone’s speed earned her safe passage behind Auburn’s fullbacks and she slashed in from the left and delivered a winning kick at a severe angle to the far corner.

“Coach Shaver has been working on my touches with me taking the outside touch then aiming for the corner,” McHone said. “On my travel team I play wing so I also get a lot of practice with my outside shots. Today, I was right outside the box and almost on the line.”

EastMont never let up after intermission.

“That was our goal: High tempo, just continuing to put pressure on, not giving them a chance to take a breath,” Shaver said. “It’s hot out here and we wanted to put it on them.”

A corner kick set up the third goal, the ball arriving in good shape for a short distance shot. There was no chance for that because an Auburn hand ball gave the Mustangs a penalty kick. Bruce was the successful shot taker, finding some open net low and to the left.

“We’re always pretty solid on our corners because we have a good connection there,” Bruce said. “When the Auburn girl’s hand met the ball, I took advantage of the opportunity.”

Bruce had the closing goal with time being kept on the field the last two minutes. A free kick from Underwood on the left wing 35 yards out found its way to Bruce, who was stationed near the right hand post. She zeroed in on the incoming shot and headed it home.

“I was right on the line,” Bruce said. “The ball came out of the air and my head was closest to it.”

High school soccer immortality for a team is hard to come by. EastMont had all the key ingredients to make such a run.

“It’s truly all the work they’ve done since elementary school on,” Shaver said. “They’ve been together a very long time. They’ve had great coaches over the years. They’ve had committed parents. The players are committed to the sport.”

And one more thing, said Shaver: “They’re all best friends and that just works.”

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