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Prep Girls Soccer: Bears coming of age

YOUNG RIVERBEND TEAM GAINING

EXPERIENCE DOWN STRETCH

IN WIN OVER NORTH STAFFORD

BY ADAM HIMMELSBACH

The Riverbend girls soccer team is the defending Commonwealth District tournament champion. But these Bears look quite different from the ones who preceded them.

Riverbend lost nine seniors to graduation last year, so they are mostly defending champs in name only.

Head coach Becca Elliott knew it would be a challenge to mold this inexperienced group, and there were moments earlier this season when that challenge was obvious.

But now it is mid-May, and this previously inexperienced team is becoming more experienced by the day.

On Tuesday night, the Bears took the latest step in their im-probable rise by toppling North Stafford, 2–0.

“We’re a young team and we don’t have that many seniors,” sophomore midfielder Rachuel Tritt said. “We want to prove that just because we’re young doesn’t mean we can’t win. Now, we’re used to each other.”

Tritt and Leslie Flores scored for Riverbend, and goalkeeper Brooke Martin had five saves.

The Bears improved to 9–4–2 with the win, and they seem to be finding their footing, with the district tournament just one week away.

“I’m excited,” Elliott said. “The girls are playing really well, so we’ll see what happens.”

North Stafford celebrated its senior night on Tuesday, and head coach Joanne Szymanski said the ceremony might have gotten her players a bit out of their routine.

Early in the game, the Wolverines appeared out of rhythm, and Riverbend controlled play for long stretches.

“I think we were sitting back and playing more defensively,” Szymanski said, “and not really attacking the way we normally do.”

After failing to capitalize on a few early scoring chances, Riverbend struck in the 24th minute.

The Bears received a free kick a few yards beyond the top of the penalty box, and Skylar Wilcox lofted a pass over a wall of players and toward the left post.

Tritt hardly had to move as she headed the ball into the right side of the goal.

“I didn’t really know it was going in,” Tritt said. “I just headed it and was like, ‘Oh, that’s in?’”

North Stafford’s intensity level increased in the second half, and the Wolverines kept possession for the majority of play.

In the 48th minute, Sydney Melillo’s corner kick from the left flag was headed toward the goal by Kendall Jones, but Martin was there for the save.

Six minutes later, Melillo flicked a pass ahead to Quincy Slora, but the shot skidded wide left. Slora clapped her hands in frustration afterward, as another opportunity had vanished.

“We couldn’t get one in,” Szymanski said. “I think it would’ve been different if we’d been able to, but they were marking Quincy really tight.”

With about two minutes left in regulation, Flores gave Riverbend an insurance goal when she gathered a rebound and knocked it in.

“You could just tell on the field we really wanted this,” Flores said. “We always want to beat North Stafford.”

On Friday, Riverbend faces Mountain View, and North Stafford visits Brooke Point.

Adam Himmelsbach: 540/374-5442

ahimmelsbach@freelancestar.com

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