Local Sports, Sports, University

Lewis, Nett combine to defeat No. 2 Cabell Midland in state semifinals, avenge 2019 tournament loss to Knights

BECKLEY, W.Va. – A late penalty in the first half gave No. 2 Cabell Midland the 1-0 lead. It was a shot to the heart for the UHS boys’ soccer team who lost to the Knights in this same position last year, just one game shy of the state title game. 

Luckily, the third-ranked Hawks were able to come back and knock the Knights out of the bracket, 2-1, to advance to the title game against No. 1 George Washington. 

The equalizer is what gave the team the necessary momentum to pull out the win, though, and it came from Issac Lewis on a header off a corner kick. 

“He always seems to be there when we need him this year in different ways,” UHS coach Michael Smith said about Lewis. “Today it happened to be on the score sheet.”

The final goal came halfway through the second half when UHS’ leading scorer Riley Nett put a shot behind the Knights keeper, giving the Hawks the lead for good. 

“A hard-fought game against a very good team,” Smith said. “They seemed to be as dangerous as we were throughout the game, traded chases in the first half, had a really unfortunate penalty and a dropped a little bit, but I’ve said it before, this is the most mentally tough group I’ve been around since I’ve been here. To come back and get an equalizer right before half was huge. It might be the goal of the season.”

And while there was plenty of excitement to go around on Nett’s win-sealing goal, Smith let out a breath of relief. 

“It’s hard to forget about things like last year and the last two years for the senior group, and there’s a lot of emotion that goes into that,” Smith said. “We just have to stay focused. And when that happens you can press us all you want, but I think that’s one great thing about having Riley up front – you can’t forget about him. Even when they were pressing at the end of the game, all we had to do was clear a long ball and we still had a chance at another goal or two at the end because of who we have up front, and that limits the number of chances Cabell Midland gets trying to press and get a late equalizer. We stayed composed, dealt with it well and saw it out.” 

The game didn’t come without headaches, though. On Thursday, Berkeley County Judge R. Steven Redding granted Martinsburg girls’ soccer player Emily Beck a temporary restraining order to postpone the Class AAA state tournament. The WVSSAC filed a subsequent writ of probation with the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, which was granted early Friday morning, allowing the tournament to commence as scheduled. Outside advice would lead the Hawks, Cougars, Patriots and Knights to all travel to Beckley despite knowing what the state court of appeals would do. 

“There’s enough legal insight from enough people, not in the program, but people we have contact with who understand what’s going on and that the original temporary restraining order probably shouldn’t have been filed anyway,” Smith said. “I think most people knew that and I went to bed last night and slept well, I don’t think we were worried about being able to play today.” 

Next up is George Washington. The top-ranked Patriots defeated No. 4 Jefferson 1-0 in the semifinals. Smith said that, since he’s been telling his team to take things one game at a time that he hasn’t done much research on GW. That started Friday afternoon before a team meeting where they will discuss the championship game plan.

TWEET @andrewspellman_