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Blue Devils baffle Galax

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Gate City used two quick goals and a frustrating defense to advance to the Group A semifinals.

By Craig Worrell, Sports Editor

One thing that sets soccer apart from most other sports, aside from the fact that nobody pounces on a loose ball, is that for the most part there is a continuously-running clock.

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Gate City had Galax in sore need of a timeout on Tuesday.

Giving up two early goals, the Maroon Tide never fully recovered and dropped a 4-1 decision to the Blue Devils in the Group A boys’ soccer quarterfinals at the East River Soccer Complex.

Scoreless after six minutes, Gate City found the net twice in less than two minutes. Phillip Head made a takeaway deep in Galax’s offensive end, sailed a long lead to Levi Herron, who converted the breakaway with 33:55 on the clock. A minute and 36 seconds alter, Herron’s cross from near the left corner found Head at the back post with an empty net in front of him for a 2-0 lead.

The rest of the first half wasn’t fun, said Galax coach Elizabeth Stringer.

“The last four or five games we’ve been scored on first, and that’s been the fire to get us going,” Stringer said. “But we got scored on again so quickly and we just fell apart for a while. We haven’t been in that position since our very first game of the year. We just got frustrated, we got nervous, we were at each other’s throats, we never got our heads back in the game.”

Galax put just four shots on goal in the first 40 minutes, only one of which – a Junior Espinosa bullet soon after Gate City’s second goal – was a threat to cut into the Blue Devil lead. Gate City keeper Micah Bledsoe’s diving stop preserved the lead.
Halftime provided Galax’s players a chance to collect themselves, get their heads together and put together a second-half strategy. A much more focused Maroon Tide dominated in terms of time of possession and shots attempted after the break, but Galax was still outscored 2-1 in the second 40 minutes.

“We really controlled the ball,” Stringer said. “We were on our side of the field almost the entire second half but we couldn’t score. Gate City kept about six people in the box whenever we were on our side of the field, and they simply shut us down. Their defense was a wall. They did a great job back there.”

Chalk that up to a lesson learned by the Blue Devils in last year’s state tournament, when Galax upended the Region D champs 2-1.

“They knew how to defend us,” Stringer said. “I talked to their coach before the game and he said he definitely knew who Andres [Medina] and Junior [Espinosa] were.”

The two Galax scorers entered the match with a combined 58 goals but came up empty Tuesday. Isaac Tracy scored the Tide’s lone goal, converting a corner kick from Luis Turcios seven minutes into the second half. Gate City answered less than four minutes later, regaining the two-goal edge when Caleb Herron scored off of an indirect kick.

Galax was awarded six corners and took 13 shots in the second half, seven inside the goal mouth, but came up empty after Tracy’s goal. Head capped the scoring for Gate City with eight minutes left on a penalty kick.

The Maroon Tide was flying high after knocking off Radford in the Region C finals three days earlier, only the second time in 15 years the Bobcats hadn’t claimed the region title.

“That may have been a part of our problem,” Stringer said. “Just the second time in school history that we’ve beaten Radford, and I think we underestimated Gate City. We beat them last year when they were region champs, and they were the runner-up this year. I think we felt we were just going to sail on through.”

The Blue Devils instead will be moving on to the semifinals at Radford University, facing Northampton in the semifinals Friday. Radford upset Virginia High and will face Manassas Park in the other semifinal.

 

Tuesday

Group A quarterfinals

at East River Soccer Complex

 

Gate City 4, Galax 1

Halftime – Gate City 2, Galax 0. Scoring summary: GC – L.Herron 7’ (Head); GC – Head 8’ (L.Herron); Gx – Tracy 47’ (unassisted); GC – C.Herron 51’ (Head); GC – Head 72’ (pk).

 

                                 GC    G

Shots (on goal)        9(8)    22(12)

Fouls                           9    9

Corner kicks                 1    8

Offsides                        2    2

Yellow cards                 1    1

Red cards                    0    0

Saves                       11    4

 

Saves – Bledsoe (GC) 11, Fisher (Gx) 4.

Yellow cards – C.Herron (GC), Medina (Gx).