Young Team Overcomes Obstacles, Earns State Title

Sure, they were the top seed. Yes, they defeated Norfolk Academy for the first time in school history.

But that was before those ugly ten minutes during the TCIS championship loss to Cape Henry Collegiate. Before Madison Parker and Natalie Kanter, five-year stalwarts on the Collegiate varsity, each went down with knee injuries. Before the Oaks’ state tournament prospects changed dramatically from favorite to question mark.

DSC_8877With junior Virginia Sanford, a major scoring threat, already sidelined,  the girls were without three key all-conference performers. 

They faced a test of character, of the strength of their family, and, of course, of skill and stamina.

 Rather than fade, the team thrived, earning 3-0 and 2-0 wins in the quarterfinal and semifinal rounds.

Character, Coach Kai Evans would say later, drove their success.

In Friday’s semifinal, Parker gutted out a couple of minutes at the start of the game before succumbing to the injury.

In Saturday’s final, the Oaks met Eastern Mennonite, a mature and physical team, just the kind of opponent Kanter and Parker could help neutralize with their size and strength.

Parker, the hero in the Norfolk Academy game, started and played a chunk of the first half despite the pain. Kanter, with a torn anterior cruciate ligament, and Sanford, with a kneecap injury, were out. So the only other senior starter was Georgia Drinkwalter, named VISAA Division II player of the year after the game.

But the versatility of the young Oaks proved pivotal. Junior Demetra Protogyrou occasionally moved up to striker. Freshman forward Sarah Smallets played some wide defender. Sophomore Ann Burns Morrison stepped into the midfield from her wide defender slot. Freshman Hannah Beale moved into a starting midfield role. Senior Emily Cole manned the defense. Sophomore Madison White slipped in comfortably at midfield and striker. Sophomore Timeri Jordan played tough on defense. Freshman Cameron Brown occasionally moved from striker to midfield. Junior Natalie Batzel picked up her game. Eighth grader Sarah Smith made slashing runs on offense. Eighth grader Ashby Larkin, promoted from the JV team for the state tournament because of injuries, played valuable minutes in the midfield.

During the first few minutes of the final, Eastern Mennonite had the advantage. All-TCIS keeper Jessie Cavolt, who had a flawless season in goal, made a key save on a free kick four minutes into the game to prevent a big momentum shift.

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The momentum shift, it turned out, came for the Oaks in a flash when Brown took a pass, turned, and scored, stunning the Menonnite crowd, silencing their blaring vuvuzelas.

Minutes later, persistence paid off again after the Flames cleared a corner kick only to find the ball back in the box and Brown scoring again through traffic (video and picture).

Later in the half, Smallets scored when the Mennonite keeper, thinking her shot was going wide, turned and let the ball through only to watch it go into the corner of the goal. The Oaks were up 3-0 at the half.DSC_8763

From then on, the Oaks were never threatened. They had several opportunities in the second half. Brown converted on one to complete her hat trick.

They controlled the game, possessing the ball for what seemed like 80 percent of the half, making six, eight, ten passes, moving the ball side to side and back and forth. The play was hypnotic in its beauty.

How dominant were the Oaks? They did not surrender a corner kick the entire game. Mennonite managed just four shots on goal. The few times the Flames crossed the midfield line in the second half, a quick and tenacious defense and Cavolt’s sure hands in goal smothered their strikes.

 Soon, Cavolt was picking up and punting a weak shot as the final whistle blew. Time for the wild rumpus to begin.

Cavolt, aided by fast and tenacious defenders, ended the historic 14-win season with a stunning 13 shutouts.

A high level of character is what allowed our team to be successful this season.  Character means defeating your arch rival for the first time ever on the road, down 1-0 at the half, in the TCIS semifinal after years of just falling short,” Coach Kai Evans said. 

“Character means having family, friends, alumni and peers from your school travel to support your team no matter where or when you are playing.  Character means asking players to play a number of different positions, not only through the course of a whole season, but a game, a tournament, a state title run while never hearing complaints in return.  Character is having leaders lead with humility and followers follow with trust.”

“Our season’s success,” he added, “was predicated on a unified and unflappable amount of character within our soccer family and the greater NCS family.”

Here are the season statistics:
Overall Record: 14-4-3

Conference Record: 7-2

Program Firsts: Defeating NA away in TCIS Semifinal, Winning VISAA State Championship

Shutouts: 13.

Goals Against: 12

Goals For: 51

Maxpreps Virginia Postseason Rank: 5 (including Division 1 and ALL public schools in the Commonwealth)

Virginian-Pilot Postseason Rank: 5 (including Divison 1 and ALL public schools in the area)

For pictures from the championship game, go to Oaks Win State Title.

For pictures from the semifinal win over Atlantic Shores, go to Oaks Semifinal Win.

For video from the game, go to Oaks Win.

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About jimsravesnrants

Jim Morrison has flown barrel rolls with the Navy's Blue Angels (he didn't barf), climbed and slept overnight in a 243-foot-tall redwood (he didn't fall), and gone one-on-one with Muhammad Ali (he didn't flinch). His award-winning stories have appeared in Smithsonian, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Private Clubs, This Old House, National Wildlife, Smart Money’s offspring, George, Context, Family PC, Good Housekeeping, Playboy, Biography, The Washington Post, Reader’s Digest, Utne Reader, Southwest Spirit, the magazine of Southwest Airlines, and American Way, the magazine of American Airlines, among others. His web site is www.jmwriter.com

Posted on May 21, 2014, in soccer and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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