QUICKSBURG – Stonewall Jackson sophomores Eli Dellinger and Kylene Franklin have been playing together since they were 5 and have always had a special connection on the soccer field.
It didn’t take long for that connection between best friends to pay off for the Generals in Tuesday’s Class 1 girls soccer state quarterfinals. The pair teamed up for a goal less than two minutes into the game as the Generals knocked off Northumberland, 4-1.
“We’ve been working together since we were little,” Franklin said of her and Dellinger. “That connection with us – it’s just always been there, and it’s getting stronger. When I know that I have Eli there to give me all those good passes, I know that all I have to do is be able to finish it.”
Less than two minutes into the game, Franklin scored a header off a corner kick from Dellinger for a quick 1-0 lead.
“I was really excited about that,” Dellinger said of the goal. “We work on it all the time in practice. Of course, in the warm-ups we did a whole bunch like that, and we were really connecting. Ever since we were little, I’ve been taking corner kicks and she’s been putting them in with her head. So as soon as I let it go, I was like, ‘I know she’s going to put it in.’ And that’s what happened, and it was great.”
The two teamed up again for the Generals’ second goal. Dellinger sent a through ball to Franklin, who sent a shot past Northumberland goalkeeper Addison Swisher with seven minutes left in the first half.
Stonewall Jackson added another goal in the last minute of the first half. Sophomore Julia Biller was in the right place at the right time after a shot was deflected back to her and she put it in the back of the net for a 3-0 lead.
“I saw it just ricochet off some players,” Biller said. “Then I saw a clear shot, and so I just decided to take it. I’m very excited to score in this game because it’s a really important game to us. I’m just proud of our team for making it (to the state semifinals).”
Northumberland’s Cameron Lewis scored on a penalty kick with 27 minutes left to cut the lead to 3-1. Dellinger scored on a penalty in the final seconds of the game for the 4-1 win. Stonewall Jackson sophomore goalkeeper Lilly Proctor had 10 saves.
It is the first-ever state tournament for Stonewall Jackson’s girls soccer team. Franklin said the win was big for not only this year’s players but the entire program as a whole.
“It feels so good – just knowing that we did this,” Franklin said. “Because we did this for everyone – all of our supporters, everyone that used to play. We did this for every single person out there that came and supported us and that’s played for Stonewall soccer. So this just means so much to us – this is everything.”
The Generals (18-4) are playing this week without senior forward Casey Gibson and her sister Morgan Gibson, who is a sophomore defender. The pair are on a family vacation.
Stonewall Jackson coach Ginny Dellinger said that having the two starters out forced her to make some changes but she felt like the players dealt with it well.
“It’s a new set-up and people aren’t used to working together,” Ginny Dellinger said. “We were not quite as crisp. But I think it still came out pretty well. We still scored in lots of our traditional ways. We can always count on putting Kylene (Franklin) up top and being able to come up with something – see if we can send her enough balls.”
The Generals have won eight games in a row and they will play Eastern Montgomery in the Class 1 state semifinals at Radford University at 11 a.m. Friday.
Stonewall Jackson outscored opponents 27-1 in last week’s two regional contests. Eli Dellinger said it was good for the team to have a closer game to start the state tournament.
“It definitely makes you more humble,” she said. “It was a little scary but we knew it was going to get like this once we got to the state tournament. So just knowing that we could at least take the first team, I think we’re going to have a little bit of confidence. But we’re also going to make sure that we don’t let up because obviously, this was closer than our last game.”