By Jeff Nations
Shenandoah Valley Christian Academy picked up plenty of momentum for this week's Virginia Association of Christian Athletics (VACA) state tournament.
The Patriots, the No. 1 seed in the North Region, will host the South Region's No. 4 Roanoke Valley Christian today at 5 p.m., with the winner advancing to Friday's 5 p.m. semifinals in Martinsville. Saturday's VACA championship is set for 1 p.m. in Martinsville.
SVCA is coming off an impressive tournament victory last week, when the Patriots traveled to Dayton, Tennessee, to play in the NACA (National Association of Christian Athletics) tournament and came home with that governing body's first-ever girls soccer state championship.
"That was really neat," SVCA coach Dustin Wheelock said. "The girls went down and performed really well."
SVCA (16-4-2) faced doubleheaders on both Wednesday and Thursday to reach last week's championship game on Friday. Games on the first two days of the tournament were 60 minutes long, with Friday's championship a full 80-minute contest.
The Patriots opened against Providence Academy (Johnson City, Tennessee) and picked up a 1-0 victory when the Patriots' Megan Norton tallied an unassisted goal in the 50th minute.
"She got it about midfield and had to get by several defenders," Wheelock said. "Then she broke free and just finished it with a beautiful goal."
The Patriots trailed in-state rival Fresta Valley 1-0 at halftime in last Wednesday's second game, but SVCA's Grace Snyder tied it on a free kick in the 40th minute. Five minutes later, Norton put the Patriots up 2-1 with an unassisted goal.
SVCA's Snyder was injured in a collision with a Fresta Valley player late in the game that resulted in Fresta Valley's game-tying penalty kick. Snyder suffered a head laceration on the play and was sent to a local hospital, ultimately missing the remainder of the tournament.
Wheelock said Snyder is cleared to play in today's VACA state quarterfinal game, her first action since last week's injury. With Snyder out, other Patriots had to fill the void.
"We had to move Abi Beaty back from midfield to take Grace's spot and she did an excellent job," Wheelock said. "Then we needed someone to fill in for Abi, and Sam Yarnall did a great job there."
The Patriots cruised to a 4-0 victory over Tennessee's Maryville Christian Academy on Thursday. Norton opened the scoring with a goal off a penalty kick in the eighth minute, then Alex Yarnall scored off her sister Sam Yarnall's assist in the 20th minute to put SVCA up two goals at the break.
Hannah McGann tagged on two more goals, both off assists by Norton, in the second half to complete the scoring.
Norton struck again with an unassisted goal that gave the Patriots a 1-0 halftime lead over the Chattanooga Patriots later on Thursday.
Chattanooga tied it on a free kick in the 46th minute, but not for long as Norton scored the game-winner two minutes later off a Beaty assist.
SVCA advanced to Friday's championship as the top seed, and the Patriots got a rematch with Providence Academy.
McGann tallied the game's only goal off another assist from Beaty in the 60th minute as the Patriots took home the championship.
Norton was named the tournament's Offensive Most Valuable Player. Norton, McGann and Kristen Hotek earned NACA all-tournament honors.
Contact Sports Editor Jeff Nations at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or email@example.com>