RADFORD – As the time was ticking off the clock, Stonewall Jackson senior Virginia Biller couldn’t contain her emotions.
One of only two seniors on Stonewall Jackson’s young girls soccer squad this week, Biller said it started to hit her exactly what her team was about to accomplish – playing in a state championship game.
“I had tears in my eyes when there was three minutes left in the game because we were ahead and it’s unreal,” Biller said. “It’s like I can’t believe we’re here but I completely believe that we’re here. It’s like I know we have it in us to be here and I know we deserve it but it’s still so incredible. It’s very exciting. I cannot wait ‘til the morning.”
Stonewall Jackson faced a little adversity Friday but responded well.
The Generals found themselves in a tie game, but scored again within a minute and held on for a 3-1 victory over Eastern Montgomery in the Class 1 state semifinals. The Generals will play Auburn, a 4-0 winner over Rappahannock County in the other semifinal, in today’s final at 9 a.m. at Christiansburg High School. The site of the championship game was moved due to the weather.
Biller said that when the game was tied at 1-1 with about 23 minutes left in the first half, it was a bit of a wake-up call for her team.
“When they scored on us, we had a little bit of a ‘wait a second’ moment,” Biller said. “We’re not too used to this. Then we kicked it in gear. We started attacking. We pressured; cleared it; got it up there.”
Stonewall Jackson sophomore Kylene Franklin scored the game’s first goal on an assist from Biller just six minutes into the game for a 1-0 lead.
“I saw the opening and I took it,” Franklin said. “It went right between the goalie’s hands and it felt good. It definitely gave our team that boost to be able to push us through the rest of the way.”
The Mustangs (14-3) were able to tie the game at 1-1 with 23 minutes left in the first half on a goal by Yesenia Mercado. Stonewall Jackson sophomore goalkeeper Lilly Proctor had the wet ball but it slipped right through her hands and into the goal in rainy conditions.
“That was very frustrating to Lilly (Proctor) but she really rallied,” Stonewall Jackson coach Ginny Dellinger said. “Lilly played a great game today. Once that went in, she dug in and decided that there were not going to be anymore. So I was happy about that.”
Less than a minute later, Stonewall Jackson sophomore Brooke Jones scored to give the Generals a 2-1 lead.
“We don’t like to lose,” Biller said. “We don’t like to be behind, and when we get a little kick in the butt like that, we are all full steam ahead.”
The Generals (19-4) said they struggled getting used to playing on the turf field at Radford University’s recreation fields, and the steady downpour that was going on in the first half did not help. However, the Generals were able to control the action much more in the second half.
“I think we got a break (at halftime) and that helped us a little bit,” Stonewall Jackson sophomore Eli Dellinger said. “I knew some of us were tired with the lack of subs. But I think we just knew we needed to start passing better; control the ball. It’s a lot faster on turf. So when it’s coming really fast on us, we have to give it a little touch so we don’t make it fly 20 feet in front of us. So I think we just thought about what we needed to do and then we executed it.”
Franklin added another goal, her 39th of the season, with 13 minutes left to take a 3-1 advantage.
Franklin said that she knew the team was ready for the game before it even started.
“It means so much to us,” Franklin said. “We were hyping ourselves up on the way here this morning. Once we woke up, we were ready to play this game. I’ve never seen so much energy and connection and passion in our team, and it feels so good.”
Auburn played Eastern Montgomery three times this season with Auburn winning two out of the three games. So Ginny Dellinger said she expects another tough game in the finals but she’s confident in her team.
This is the first year for the Class 1 girls soccer state tournament and the last year in Class 1 for Stonewall Jackson as they will move up to Class 2 next year. Eli Dellinger said the team is eager to play for the state championship.
“It’s really, really exciting,” she said. “As soon as we knew there was a (Class 1) state tournament last year we got really, really excited. We’re hoping next year when we go to (Class 2) we can do well as well. But I’m really excited for tomorrow and I hope that everybody just brings what they have and I know we will. And hopefully, we’ll go all the way.”