River Bluff, Gray Collegiate fall in Lower State girls soccer finals
The dreams of a perfect state championship season ended Monday in The Swamp for River Bluff girls’ soccer.
The nationally 11th-ranked Lady Gators were upended 2-1 by fellow unbeaten Wando in the Class 5A Lower State final. It was the first loss of the season for River Bluff (22-1-1), who previously played Wando to a 1-1 tie at the Viking Cup in February.
Meanwhile, it was the third Lower State title won in five years in the town of Lexington by the Lady Warriors (25-0-1). They previously played at Lexington three times in four years, winning in 2015 and 2017 and losing last season in double overtime.
“Soccer’s not the nicest game at times,” River Bluff head coach K.C. Dunbaker said. “You can have a good night and then it can just turn and go the other way. But, no credit taken away from Wando. They’re a strong side. They did their job tonight that they came here to do and they ended up getting the two goals.
“I’m very proud of our ladies for the work and the effort they put forth last season, especially tonight. Unfortunately, someone has to lose in this game and we were on that side tonight.”
After a scoreless first half, the Lady Gators took the lead at the 27-minute mark as Charlotte Sparkes kicked Nicolle Marpartida’s corner pass just past Wando goalkeeper Maggie Vanthullenar’s reach.
With 20 minutes left in the match, Wando tied the match on a putback by Caroline Richvalsky off a shot off the River Bluff goal pole.
The Lady Warriors took the lead with five minutes remaining as Regan Jones hit a high left angle shot just over the reach of River Bluff’s Jessica Padgett to stun the home faithful.
“Regan’s a lefty, so that’s why she’s on the left side of the field,” head coach Shannon Champ said. “She does really good getting serves into the box and I really thought she was going to serve it in because we had runners coming in. But, she actually went ahead and hit it. Nice shot, Upper 90, backpost.”
Wando will face two-time defending Class 5A champion J.L. Mann at 4:30 p.m. Saturday at W.C. Hawkins Stadium for the Class 5A girls’ soccer title. Meanwhile, Dunbaker looked to remain upbeat for the program’s future while paying homage to those seven seniors who helped build the program.
“It’s huge for us,” Dunbaker said. “Every year, we try to improve and we have improved. Like I was telling the girls ‘Yeah, tonight is going to be terrible. It’s not going to be fun. It’s going to hurt for a while. But, to look at us from going into the 1st year with these seniors being freshmen not making the playoffs to tonight playing in the Lower State championship, only having 1 loss on the season, winning the Viking Cup. There’s a lot for these girls to be proud of and I’m hoping they will not define their season by this 1 loss.”
Oceanside Collegiate 5, Gray Collegiate 3
For the second year in a row, the Lady War Eagles were stopped a game short of the Class 2A final.
This time, it was the Lady Landsharks who continued their athletic program’s success against their sister school. After KayannGlass tied the match at 1-1, Oceanside Collegiate scored four unanswered goals to take control of the contest.
Catherine McKeown and Ariadna Marti had the final goals for Gray Collegiate, who finished the season 13-15.
Oceanside Collegiate (14-3) will face Southside Christian for the Class 2A title at 2 p.m. Friday at W.C. Hawkins Stadium.