By Jerry Holsworth - firstname.lastname@example.org
QUICKSBURG -- Stonewall Jackson forward Hope Madaris had a hat trick on Friday to lead the Generals to a convincing 8-0 win over Luray in the Shenandoah District girls soccer tournament quarterfinals.
"That's my first time to do that, so I'm really excited," Madaris said.
Stonewall's win sets up a semifinal match at Riverheads on Tuesday, and the Generals' victory was a real confidence builder heading into that game.
"I thought we performed very well tonight," Stonewall coach Chris Livesay said. "We put the girls in different positions throughout the game to see how they would react. You never know when you're going to need to move people around in a big game, and we have a really tough one coming up with Riverheads. I was just playing with our lineup, and I thought they all responded well."
It took the Generals very little time to figure out the Bulldogs' weakness. Just two minutes into the game, Madaris launched a high ball from 40 yards out towards the Luray goal. The Bulldogs goalkeeper misplayed the ball and it sailed over her head and into the net for the first goal of the game.
"After the first couple of shots, Hope figured out that their keeper was weak on high balls so we started feeding them to her as often as we could," Livesay said.
The strategy worked, and Stonewall was able to build a big lead before halftime.
Just seven minutes after Madaris' shot, Catlin O'Connell sent a high ball from the right wing at the Bulldogs' net and that resulted in the Generals' second goal of the game.
But it wasn't just high balls that were the undoing of Luray's defense. Stonewall controlled the midfield for the entire match, resulting in a flurry of shots by the Generals. Stonewall had 23 first-half shots, and finished the game with 40.
Senior Vanessa Cardoso got the third goal for the Generals on a 30-yard shot with 23 minutes left in the half.
"I just saw the opportunity and took it," Cardoso said. "We all work together so well on the front line. We communicate well, and that's why we had so many opportunities to score."
Christina Chroniger finished off the first-half scoring for Stonewall, taking a through pass from Taylor Koontz and hammering the ball in the goal from 5 yards out with five minutes left in the half.
While the Generals were scoring at will, the Stonewall defense was having even more success. Luray was not able to get off a shot during the entire game, and spent very little time on the Stonewall end of the field.
"I'm very proud of the way our defense played tonight," Stonewall sweeper Michaela Koontz said. "We tried to contain them and keep them from getting any shots off, and we cover for each other when someone goes for the ball. We also want to help our offense get started and not just clear the ball out."
Things didn't change much in the second half. Taylor Koontz scored on the first shot of the second half to put the Generals up 5-0. Madaris followed that up with back-to-back goals to give Stonewall a commanding 7-0 lead with eight minutes to play.
Kelsey Gonzalez finished off the scoring with a goal from 12 yards out with seven minutes left in the game.
The most amazing thing about the Generals' offense prowess was that seven of their goals were scored by freshmen or sophomores.
"With all of our young players making important contributions, things are only going to get better for General soccer," said Madaris, who is a freshman. "If we can keep improving, we're going to have a very good team over the next few years."
Despite the loss, there was never any question about Luray's effort. The Bulldogs fought hard to try to get on to the scoreboard until the final whistle, even drawing a yellow card in the final minutes of the game during a collision with the Stonewall goalkeeper.
"Considering the fact that this was our third game this week, I thought our girls played well," Bulldogs coach Crystal Richards said. "I was really proud of the way they never quit. Stonewall has a very good team, and it's tough to be down like that, but I think that we can walk away from this game knowing that we left everything on the field."