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BLUEFIELD, W.Va. –– One impressive streak came to an end Thursday. Another is alive and kicking.
Andres Medina saw his string of scoring at least three goals end at six games, but Galax earned a spot in the Group A state soccer tournament for the third straight year, powering past James River 4-1 in the Region C semifinals at the East River Soccer Complex.
Galax faced region tournament nemesis Radford in the finals Saturday and will open state tournament play Tuesday, the opponent depending on the outcome of that match. The Maroon Tide has advanced to the state tournament six of the last eight years. Galax’s last four region tournaments have ended with losses to Radford, three times in the finals.
Thursday, though, the Maroon Tide eliminated James River for the second year in a row and the third time in the last five years. Leading just 2-1 with less than 12 minutes remaining, Galax scored twice in 90 seconds to secure the win. Both goals came during a downpour that would eventually halt the match for 35 minutes.
Junior Espinosa was on a breakaway when he was taken down in the 18 box by James River stopper Kyle King. Awarded a penalty kick, Espinosa popped the ball through just left of center for a 3-1 advantage.
Moments later with the deluge intensifying, Miguel Lopez took a direct kick from some 35 yards away, curled his shot from right to left and watched it squirt through the gloves of James River goalkeeper Cameron Bell.
Galax (18-1-1) never trailed after scoring less than eight minutes into the match. Medina was in good shape to extend his string of hat tricks, taking a throw-in up the right sideline from Andres Flores, dribbling past two defenders and sending a low shot inside of the back post with 33:56 showing on the clock.
“I hate he didn’t get another hat trick, but he scored, we won, that’s all that matters,” said Galax coach Elizabeth Stringer. “We’re going to state.”
The Knights (10-4-1) spent their fair share of time in front of the Galax goal, but managed just three shots on goal in the first half. Galax keeper Jacob Fisher disrupted numerous James River opportunities while the Galax fullbacks did their job as well. Following Medina’s goal, the Knights nearly capitalized on a free kick from just outside the 18. A deflected shot trickled toward the goal before being cleared just short of the line by a Tide defender.
Taking the 1-0 lead into the half, Galax doubled the margin 12 minutes into the second period when Espinosa’s pass led Medina up the right side. Medina drove deep and dropped a pass back to Espinosa, who made one deft move around a Knight defender before scoring for a 2-0 advantage.
The lone James River goal came after a Galax handball in the penalty box. Greg Whiting’s perfectly-placed shot whizzed just inside of the right post for a 2-1 score with 26:16 left to go.
Unfazed, Galax just went back to work.
“We try to look at it like we’re 0-0 the whole game,” said Stringer. “Just keep going.”
Galax was repeatedly frustrated by James River’s offside trap, incurring 10 offside calls to none for the Knights, but managed to outshoot James River 12-6, including 8-4 on-goal, and attempted six corners to the Knights’ one.
Region C semifinals
at East River Soccer Complex
Galax 4, James River 1
Halftime – Galax 1, James River 0. Scoring summary: G – Medina 7’ (Flores); G – Espinosa 52’ (Medina); JR – Whiting 54’ (pk); G – Espinosa 69’ (pk); G – Lopez 70’ (unassisted).
Shots (on goal) 6(4) 12(8)
Fouls 8 14
Corner kicks 1 6
Offsides 0 10
Yellow cards 0 3
Red cards 0 0
Saves 3 4
Saves – Bell (JR) 4, Fisher (G) 3.
Yellow cards – Galax: Peoples, Espinosa, Jordan.