The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

October 25, 2013

Woodrow girls knock off Princeton 2-0, advance to regional soccer finals

By Tom Bone
For The Register-Herald

PRINCETON — An aggressive Woodrow Wilson girls soccer team made two first-half goals stand up with a shutout defense and claimed the Class AAA, Region 3, Section 2 championship on Thursday night, beating Princeton 2-0 at Everette K. Bailey Field.

“They did step up, especially in the second half,” said Paulette Umberger, head coach of the Flying Eagles (11-6-4), as her players celebrated on a chilly night in their opponents’ midfield circle.

“We were nervous, but we came out strong,” said senior goalkeeper Emily Lane. “My defense is strong. I love ’em all. ... It takes the pressure off me a lot. I don’t have to work as hard.”

Umberger said about Princeton, “They’ve got some offense. We just had to stay shoulder-to-shoulder with them.”

Princeton (11-7-2), which beat Shady Spring 12-2 on Tuesday, managed 13 shots on their home turf on Thursday, but Lane saved their four shots on goal. Numerous times, Princeton’s drives ended with the ball missing the target by a few inches.

“We had our shots, we just couldn’t get them to go in,” said Princeton head coach Michelle Dye. “Tori (Billips), Amanda (Barrett), Shaylah (Walls) — they had a strong attack and played really well. We just couldn’t get it to count when it needed to count.”

She said about the Beckley defense, “They really keyed in on our key players. Sometimes Amanda would have two on her, and so would Tori. And of course, Shaylah, every time she turned around they were right there.

“They were bunched up in the middle, and our power was down the middle. They definitely knew how to defend, and stop us on that.”

Elsewhere, the visiting Flying Eagles not only won the 50-50 balls, but also the 40-60 balls and the 60-40 balls.

Woodrow Wilson, 17th in the state Class AAA soccer rankings, had defeated Princeton 3-1 on Oct. 1. The Tigers, who averaged nearly four goals per match, came into the sectional title game 14th in the final state rankings.

A little more than 10 minutes into Thursday’s match, Rebekah Cook launched a corner kick toward the Princeton goal. A Tiger defender got her head on the ball, but it bounced backward and off the hand of goalkeeper Meredith Putorek for the first goal of the night.

The other goal came in the 17th minute when Jada Watts dished the ball to Kaylee Hilliard. The sophomore got off a quick shot from the left edge of the 18-yard box that landed in the far side of the net.

Billips had a couple of looks at the goal in the last 15:10 of the first half, and Barrett took an opportunity with 2:07 left before the break, but nothing crossed the goal line.

The Princeton cause was aided by three pushing fouls on the Beckley squad in the first half. Despite the hard contact at times, neither team came close to drawing a card penalty.

Umberger said, “We fell apart a little, there toward the end of the first half, not doing the shoulder-to-shoulder. It almost cost us a couple of goals; they had three or four that were really close. We’re glad we could get past that part of it.”

Princeton almost avoided the shutout with seven seconds left in the match when Barrett slammed a shot into the crossbar. The ball bounced straight down to the turf, and back up in the air, where Lane grabbed it.

The Flying Eagles took 18 shots, seven of them on goal, and had five corner kicks to three for the Tigers.

Putorek made five saves in her final game for Princeton.

“Woodrow’s always a hard opponent,” she said. “We knew, coming in, that they would be one of the toughest teams we played — especially in this game, because both teams wanted it.”

“We beat them the last two years in the sectionals. They returned the favor tonight.”

Umberger said about Princeton, “They’re a strong team. Every year they’ve been a strong team. We’ve lost to them the last couple of years. So it was really nice to win this one for our three seniors.”

Woodrow Wilson senior Elizabeth Gramling said, “Princeton’s such a good team. They’re quite the challenge for us. (But) our defense was so good. They were able to cut them off.”

Umberger said about her team, “They just work so hard, and they work together, they’re cohesive. It’s just fantastic. Couldn’t be a nicer group of girls to work with. I’m sure every coach says that, but they’re really a special group.”

Putorek felt the same way about her Princeton teammates. “We’ve always been more than a team, we’ve always been a family. We’ve achieved more than any other Princeton girls’ soccer team ever has. That stands above everything else,” she said.

Putorek said Dye “means so much (to the team). She always is pushing us to do our best. She’s always encouraging, and she never loses faith in us, when we lose faith in ourselves.”

Dye said, “I’m proud of them. I hate that we lost, but we can’t hang our heads over this. The girls, they fought hard all season. From where we started to where we finished, I’m proud of each and every one of them. I think it was a great season.”

“We lose four seniors. It’s going to be hard to replace them. I guess we’ll wait and see what next year has in store for us, but I do hate to lose a great group of girls, who all have started since their freshman year. They all are irreplaceable, that’s for sure.”

The first sectional winner’s trophy in four years for the Beckley team was a cause for celebration.

Lane said, “It’s the best feeling in the world right now. It’s been a long time.”

Already their coach was asked about next week’s Class AAA regional match, likely against fourth-ranked George Washington High.

Umberger said, “It’s been four years since we’ve gone to the regional game. We’re excited to go and play, whoever shows up on Tuesday. ... Hopefully it’ll be a good game.”

— E-mail: tbone@bdtonline.com