The Dominion Post  

UHS girls’ soccer team advances to AAA finals

Created on:   Sat, Nov 4, 2017   12:35 AM

Last modified:   Sat, Nov 4, 2017   12:35 AM

The Dominion Post

BECKLEY — All the University High girls’ soccer team needed was one goal to return to the state championship match.

Braden Pickett scored two.

The senior midfielder led the Hawks to a 2-0 victory over the Hedgesville Eagles, on Nov. 3, in a Class AAA semifinal, at Cline Field.

UHS will try to repeat as state champion at 1:30 p.m. Nov. 4, as it battles Cabell Midland, which beat Greenbrier East in the other semifinal.

I’m extremely proud of our girls,” UHS co-coach Graham Peace said. “We didn’t play our best, but we survived and we advanced. Our seniors really stepped up when they needed to.”

The Eagles entered the game 19-1-2, a formidable opponent for the Hawks.

“All credit to Hedgesville, they’re an outstanding soccer team,” Peace said.

“They’re extremely well-coached. They played hard, didn’t quit, and they’re very skilled. We beat a very good soccer team tonight.”

The Hawks and Eagles had already met once on the pitch this year, drawing, 2-2, in a late September match-up.

“We knew they were very skilled and very fast, and young and energetic,” Peace said.

“Basically we wanted to soak up some of the pressure in the beginning and then take it to them after we wore them down a little bit.”

The game was a stalemate coming out, with tough defense on both sides.

Neither team could get its offense rolling, with the Eagles settling for many long-distance shots.

An opportunity presented itself for UHS with a corner kick in the
27th minute. Senior defender Leah Marsh booted the ball into play, where it bounced off a Hedgesville player toward Pickett.

Pickett headed the ball into the net for the game’s first goal.

“I looked up and the first player I saw was Braden, so I meant to get the ball close to her,” Marsh said of her corner kick.

“It was just a scramble, I didn’t even know what happened in front of the box. It just popped out to Braden, and she finished.”

Pickett said she wasn’t even sure if her header would go toward the net in the moment.

“I was just hoping it would go in. I think I even closed my eyes,” Pickett said. “It went in, and I got goose bumps. It was just a great moment.”

Peace said the corner kick changed the momentum of the contest.

“It absolutely changed the game,” Peace said. “We’re a team that excels on our set pieces, and Leah’s corners are just the best in high school soccer in the state, and Braden is just a force in the middle.”

UHS carried its 1-0 lead into halftime and kept the momentum on its side during the second half.

Hedgesville gave a valiant offensive effort but struggled all evening to advance the ball past the Hawks’ midfield and get close shots.

Pickett put the Eagles away in the 72nd minute, on a free kick. She deposited the ball in the back of the net to make it 2-0.