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Region I Girls Soccer: Cougars denied Group AA spot
BY TAFT COGHILL JR.
As the Courtland High School girls soccer team trudged off its home field Thursday night, it did so with an eye toward the future.
The Cougars had just suffered a 3–2 loss to Grafton in the Region I semifinals.
The Clippers (14–3–1) will visit Bay Rivers District rival Tabb for the regional championship game tonight.
But while Grafton earned a bid to the Group AA state tournament with the victory, the Cougars will begin looking forward to next season.
Eight of Courtland’s 11 starters are freshmen or sophomores.
Head coach Dennis Berry said the team is “by far” the youngest he’s guided in nine seasons.
“I hope they learned how this feels in the gut,” Berry said of losing Thursday’s game. “We’ve got to come back next year ready to go. This team is going to do a lot of good things next year—a lot of good things.”
Berry is so optimistic because Battlefield District Player of the Year Marybeth McBroom is a sophomore.
Freshman forward Paige Robertson also enjoyed an all-district season.
McBroom and Robertson scored one goal each for the Cougars (16–4) on Thursday, but it wasn’t enough.
“We’ll definitely learn from this,” McBroom said. “We don’t want this feeling again.”
The Clippers broke a 2–2 tie with a goal from junior midfielder Kaylee Pierce 10 minutes into the second half. Their defense shut out Courtland in the final 40 minutes. The Cougars were coming off a nine-goal performance against Warhill in the quarterfinals, but could not break through in the second half against the Clippers.
“I think the biggest thing in the second half is that we came out and possessed the ball better,” Grafton coach Aubrey Bonorden said. “I think we had to shake off some travel rust and settle down.”
Bonorden said her team’s goal was to avoid the one-on-one situations Warhill often found itself in on Tuesday.
Lions coach Todd Williams told Bonorden the Cougars beat his team’s “flat-back” defense because of their speed.
Berry was concerned his team would try to use a similar approach against the Clippers even though they kept a sweeper in the back of their defense.
“I think our forwards got really tired after the first half,” Berry said. “We were trying to blow by them too much.”
The Clippers received two first-half goals from senior forward Morgan Singer. McBroom responded to Singer’s first goal with a score. Robertson notched her tally after Singer’s second goal.
Robertson said the Cougars’ mindset wasn’t what it needed to be to win on Thursday. She said the Clippers’ defense intensified in the second half.
“They were a little sneaky with some things and a little dirty,” Robertson said. “But it’s something we have to be strong enough to fight through if the ref is not going to do his job.”
The Cougars believe they did their job this season. Berry and his players said the youthful group laid a foundation for what could be a special 2013 campaign, and beyond.
“I would have liked to have finished this season off with another trip to states because these guys deserve it,” Berry said. “But we are very optimistic about our future.”
Taft Coghill Jr.: 540/374-5526