By Jeff Nations
QUICKSBURG -- Eric Arnesen didn't see the field much last season for Stonewall Jackson's boys soccer team.
Coming out for the first time on a team loaded with talent and experience, Arnesen found his minutes few and far between for the Generals. That didn't mean his limited time on the field didn't matter, though -- with every shot and every pass, Arnesen's game was developing more and more.
In Monday's Conference 35 tournament quarterfinal game against No. 7 seed Luray, Arnesen showed just how much that time on the field last season and this year has helped as he recorded his first career hat trick to pace the No. 2 seeded Generals to an 8-0 victory that ended nearly 20 minutes early via the mercy rule.
Arnesen took four shots in the game, and made three of them as he more than doubled his season goal total.
"You could take a million shots without a game situation, and you'll still miss a bunch in the game until you have the pressure on you," Arnesen said.
Generals coach Caleb Golladay wanted his team to put away the overmatched Bulldogs as soon as possible -- in two regular-season meetings, Stonewall had outscored Luray 18-0 including a 10-0 decision last Friday. Arnesen, a senior, did more than anyone to ensure it would be an early night for his team.
"Last year was his first year and he sat pretty much every game except Luray, Page, [Buffalo] Gap," Golladay said. "So he was able to get in those games. For him and everybody really, you don't learn if you don't get the game experience. Game experience is where it's at. Guys go hard in practice, but they don't go like they would in a game."
Stonewall Jackson (11-6) was never threatened by the Bulldogs, outshooting their Shenandoah District rivals by a staggering 44-1 margin.
"We didn't have anything to prove out here, we just had to come out and get the job done," Golladay said. "I told the guys that we've had so many games where we've been stressed and been pushing it so hard, and not been able to have fun. And I told them to go out here, get a couple goals and then have fun."
The fun started early, as Stonewall's Jesus Ortiz got the scoring started eight minutes in when he chipped in a rising shot off Pedro Jacuinde's corner kick.
Four minutes later, the Generals' Roberto Cardoso Jr. hit a rocket from inside the penalty area after receiving a cross from Noe Ortiz. Cardoso's shot sailed into the upper right corner of the net.
Arnesen got his first goal on a penalty kick, then got another with 7:05 left in the first half when Pedro Jacuinde poked a through ball into the box and Arnesen punched in a shot to put his team up 4-0 heading into halftime.
"They gave me a bunch of through balls and I got lucky a bunch of times," Arnesen said. "I think we really just proved that it's not just one player that's going to make the team. We all have to work together, and as we work into the postseason more we'll just keep relearning that, that we work as a unit and not as an individual."
Stonewall's Ben Rosenberger struck for his first goal with 28:39 left in the game, hitting a rising shot that tucked into the upper left corner.
Cardoso got his second goal with another blast from the top of the penalty area five minutes later, and two minutes after that Eddie Ortega got on the scoreboard with a nifty run in the box that he finished with a shot into the left corner.
Two minutes after that, Arnesen ended the Bulldogs' season with a run down the right side. His slicing shot tucked into the left corner.
"I think tonight really helped our morale, to get out of here early and have a big score differential," Arnesen said. "But I think we're all ready to take this next game seriously [tonight]."
The Generals will host No. 3 seed Clarke County in tonight's conference semifinals, with a trip to next week's 2A East Region tournament on the line. Stonewall hasn't faced the Eagles this year, but the programs are well acquainted nonetheless through past postseason clashes. That includes last year, when Stonewall eliminated the Eagles in a 4-3 double overtime game decided by penalty kicks in the regional semifinals.
Contact Sports Editor Jeff Nations at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or email@example.com>