- Blue Ridge School
- Buckingham County
- Community Sports
- Covenant School
- Fishburne Military
- Fluvanna County
- Fork Union Military
- Louisa County
Tandem Friends sophomore Kate Moody sealed off her defender flawlessly near midfield and quickly pushed the ball ahead to a streaking Leci Irvin. Irvin easily outran her own defender, played the ball forward and slotted the ball on the right side.
“We’d really been focusing a lot on communication this year and (Irvin) was just yelling for me and I looked up and finally saw her,” Moody said. “I passed it and then she just did it.”
Just like that, 14 minutes into the VISAA Division II final in Richmond, Tandem Friends’ speed had put its mark on the contest.
Irvin’s score gave the Badgers a two-goal lead over Trinity-Meadow View and held up as the game winner as Tandem notched a 3-1 victory over the Tempest to earn the school’s second straight state title.
Moody, who scored Tandem’s first goal with a left-footed blast from just outside the box celebrated wildly after both goals and actually had to physically calm herself down after each score.
“I just couldn’t believe that we were up that early,” Moody said.
Neither could the rest of the Badgers. For the game’s first 20 minutes, a combination or Irvin and freshman Payton Oliver-Smith gave Trinity more speed than it could handle and Oliver-Smith capped the early run with a third goal that created a lot of frustration and chaos for the Tempest. Oliver-Smith ran down an Irvin through ball, meeting the ball at the same moment as Trinity’s keeper. Oliver-Smith somehow chipped the ball past the keeper who overplayed it and nudged it in for an easy goal. With 19 minutes left in the first half, Tandem was in complete control and had the unenviable task of trying to hold on tight for another 59 minutes.
“We came out expecting a really hard fought match…the hardest game we’ve ever played,” said Tandem captain Meredith Bower. “It turned out that we just had our A game on. We were able to calm everything down, get the right touch on the ball and set up the right plays.”
While the rest of the run of play wasn’t as dominant as Tandem’s semifinal dismantling of Highland, the Badgers repelled run after run by Trinity with strong midfield and defensive play including several big plays from Leah Goley and Amanda Owensby. Goalie Gillian Gardner also made a handful of saves and prevented a number of big plays with solid positioning and reliable ball handling in the box. Gardner, a talented field player, moved to keeper at the beginning of the season to help the Badgers, and the move obviously went well, culminating in the state title for the junior and her teammates.
“She came out and did what she had to do this season,” said Tandem coach Brian Williams. “I was laughing with her when we were lining up to get the medals because I know this is not exactly how she saw this year going, but she can’t be unhappy now. I can’t say enough good things about her.”
Trinity struggled in the opening sequence that gave Tandem a 3-0 lead, but the Tempest battled back in an effort to complete a Cinderella run to the title. Trinity was the tourney’s eighth seed and knocked off Covenant in the semifinals 3-1 to earn the championship game berth. A squad that lost six senior starters from the school’s 2010 state semifinal squad wasn’t expected to challenge for the D-II title, but managed to make a monster run.
“I think we came out shaky and a little flat and they came out hungry and aggressive,” said Trinity Meadow View coach Will Taylor. “They came out ready to play.”
It was apparent during and after the contest that chemistry clearly played a big role in the Badgers’ repeat state title performance. Bower echoed that line of thinking.
“Soccer has been dominating my life since I was like six or seven and I’ve been on a million teams,” Bower said. “But this is the first time I’ve ever felt the chemistry this high, we all just really came together today and really the whole season honestly.”
Now that squad has chemistry and back-to-back state titles. Not a bad combination.