By Brian Woodson
For The Register-Herald
It took 77 minutes for Fairmont Senior to finally escape the grasp of the PikeView Panthers.
The Polar Bears scored two goals in the final 10 minutes to defeat the Panthers 2-1 in the Class AA-A State Soccer Tournament on Thursday night at the Friends of Coal Field at Trace Fork.
Fairmont Senior will play Bridgeport for the girls title this afternoon. Bridgeport surprised Charleston Catholic 7-0 in the other semifinal.
PikeView made its third state tournament appearance in the last four years.
“The effort the girls gave tonight was absolutely fantastic,” PikeView head coach Sam Hill said. “We had talked the last week and a half or so, since the game was pushed back, of what we had to do to have an opportunity to be successful.
“Daggone it, they bought into it and for 70-plus minutes they did it. But at the end, we just ran out of gas. I asked the coaches after the game what we could have done to change the outcome and no one had the idea what it was.”
PikeView took a 1-0 lead into the half, with junior Bethany Bryant scoring a goal off an assist from Laura Hill.
The lead remained the same until Brianna Woodburn finally got a shot past PikeView goalkeeper Kristen Brinkley to tie the score in the 71st minute of the game.
Six minutes later, Ivey Nucelli scored the winning goal, with just over four minutes left to play, to allow the Polar Bears to escape with the victory.
No one was more proud than Hill, who has been selected as the Class AA girls soccer coach of the year. He was especially pleased with the play of seniors Laura Hill — his daughter and one of the state’s best players — and Charlotte Webster.
“Laura and Charlotte played exceptionally well tonight,” Hill said. “The leadership they gave us, with their demeanor on the field and the quality of play, individually they did everything they could for us to be successful.
“That’s not to take anything from the rest of the team. Everybody on the team literally did what they had to do to give us a chance to be successful.”
Fairmont Senior out-shot PikeView 13-8. Brinkley had eight saves for the Panthers, while Kayla Delorenzo had four for the Polar Bears.
PikeView, which finished at 16-5-2, won its sectional for a fifth straight season and the regional for a third time in the last four years.
“Not many people up there gave us an opportunity to stay in the game for very long,” Hill said. “I think we proved our worth, if you will.”