QUICKSBURG – The Stonewall Jackson’s girls soccer team has been working for the last few weeks on their short-passing game, and on Thursday night it paid off.
The Generals broke open a close game midway through the second half en route to a 6-1 Shenandoah District victory over Riverheads.
“I think tonight was probably one of our best connecting passes game that we’ve had probably all season,” Stonewall Jackson senior Casey Gibson said. “We’ve had good games. We’ve played hard. We do a lot of long balls, but tonight we were passing with feet. I think that made a huge difference on the field, especially in the rain.”
Stonewall Jackson led 2-0 at the half. The Generals outshot the Gladiators 22-2 in the opening half but were only able to find the back of the net twice.
“Honestly, I thought we played a lot better in the first half,” Stonewall Jackson coach Ginny Dellinger said. “But we just had a lot of high shots that would not land. I felt like we had a lot of pressure in the first half and maintained possession of the field really well but we just couldn’t finish. I think in the second half we finished a lot better.”
Riverheads’ Penny Shelton scored with 34 minutes left in the game to cut the lead to 2-1.
The Generals responded with three goals in a span of four minutes.
Gibson started the scoring spree with a goal with around 26 minutes left.
“We were kind of shocked,” Gibson said. “They had just scored on us. I think we started getting back the momentum, back into connecting as we did. We had pass, pass, pass and by the time it got to me it was just a simple shot.”
Just two minutes later, Stonewall Jackson sophomore Kylene Franklin took a pass, made a move around a defender and drilled a shot into the right corner of the goal past Riverheads’ goalkeeper Hannah Martin for a 4-1 lead.
Franklin added another goal two minutes after that as the Generals pulled away for good. Franklin, who leads the area with 20 goals, finished with three goals and said that it was the small connecting passes that made the difference.
“We definitely have gotten better at give-and-go’s, one pass back and then looking for that long pass,” Franklin said. “I definitely think that’s what’s going good for us; that’s giving us those open goals. That’s what helped me. If I didn’t have that connection between our midfielders in the back and then up to me I definitely wouldn’t have had (the goals).”
Gibson finished with two goals and two assists, and Eli Dellinger had four assists. Brooke Jones had one goal and Katie Jordan had one assist. Lillian Proctor had six saves for the Generals and Isabell Dellinger had one.
Franklin said the team has really come together this season and she’s seen a lot of improvement.
“I just have so much faith in this team because we have grown more together, developed on more things,” Franklin said. “Our skills are getting better. Instead of a kickball kind of a game, it’s more of a unit-passing sequence.”
Unlike previous years, there will be a Class 1 state girls soccer tournament. The Generals are in first place in the Region 1B standings and Riverheads is in second in a four-team region.
Ginny Dellinger said she wants the team to stay focused and not look too far ahead.
“A big part of our season has been to not look forward too much,” she said. “You got to get there. You don’t want to take it for granted. We are positioned well, but you can mess up one time. All you have to do is lose one game, have people not show up to play and you’re out of it. So right now we’re just playing as if we’re playing (as a Class 2 school), and we need to be as sharp and as good as we can be. Playing in the (Shenandoah) District tournament will get us there. I think that hopefully will get us to where we’re playing very well for (Class 1). I hope that we can perform as well as I know that we can.”