Lady Warriors qualify for states

Published 10:02 pm Thursday, June 4, 2015

Nansemond River High School senior Courtney DeLucia looks to make a play against host Tabb High School during the Lady Warriors’ 1-0 victory on Wednesday in the Region 4A South semifinals.

Nansemond River High School senior Courtney DeLucia looks to make a play against host Tabb High School during the Lady Warriors’ 1-0 victory on Wednesday in the Region 4A South semifinals.

The Nansemond River High School girls’ soccer team has moved further into the postseason this year than any boys’ or girls’ soccer team from Suffolk ever has.

Visiting Tabb High School on Wednesday in the Region 4A South semifinals, the Lady Warriors achieved a 1-0 victory, advancing to Friday’s regional championship game and qualifying for next week’s Virginia High School League Group 4A state tournament.

“That’s a big one,” Nansemond River Kurt Straub said of the win. “It’s a milestone.”

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And it was achieved largely through an impenetrable defense.

“Tabb’s a good team,” Straub said. “They were knocking on the door early and had some good opportunities. They just couldn’t find the back of the net, and defense stepped up.”

The coach put senior Desiree Patterson at sweeper, sophomore Starr Robinson at stopper and freshman Kayleigh McQueen at outside fullback.

“We played them just like we played King’s Fork (High School),” Straub said. “I moved Daijah (Norris) back to defense and had her mark their top scorer, which was conference Player of the Year over there.”

Norris, the Lady Warriors’ star sophomore striker, occupied the other outside fullback position and kept Lady Tigers junior Leah Tyson in check.

“Kamarie (Jewette) did a tremendous job,” Straub said of his sophomore center midfielder. “She was directing people left and right.”

NR senior goalkeeper Samantha Henry is still out with an injury she sustained at the beginning of Monday’s regional quarterfinal, but sophomore Savannah Miller stepped up in her absence.

“She made three or four tremendous saves that could have easily went in,” Straub said.

She also assisted the game’s only goal.

When she received the ball five minutes into the second half, she punted it downfield and it bounced over the head of Tabb’s last defender. Lady Warriors freshman striker Indiah Hunter took off with it, finding herself in a sudden one-on-one showdown with the Lady Tigers’ goalkeeper, which she won.

“I wouldn’t want to call it a fluke goal, because it happened, but it’s definitely not something you’re going to see every day,” Straub said.

After the score, “I played defense for 35 minutes,” the coach said. “I’m not going to lie — I stacked it and played defense.”

He estimated that Tabb finished with about 17 to 18 scoring opportunities on the night, to his own team’s eight or nine.

“I ended up playing with just one forward and moving one of my forwards back to the midfield, just to keep them from pressing so hard,” Straub said.

Nansemond River’s defensive pressure took its toll on the Lady Tigers.

“They got frustrated, and their top girl ended up getting a red card,” Straub said.

Tyson’s ejection came with about 15 minutes remaining, hurting Tabb’s attempt at a final push.

The Lady Warriors visited the Lady Tigers (12-4-1) earlier this season and fell 4-2, but it was a helpful learning experience that benefited Nansemond River on Wednesday.

“Tabb likes to control the ball, so they play a lot of possession, and I told my girls, I was like, ‘Don’t chase the ball,’” Straub said. “I was like, ‘That’s what we did last time, and they just kept on passing and passing, so don’t chase it. Let them play around, mark your man.’”

“To me, coming in as a first-year coach, I’m kind of at a loss for words,” Straub said of the postseason success. “I’m excited, but I don’t want to stop here. We’re here now, so let’s just keep on going.”

Nansemond River (13-5-1) must now travel to Midlothian High School to face the Lady Trojans, which ended the Lady Warriors’ run last season in the regional semifinals with a 9-0 defeat.

“They’re all tall, they’re big,” Straub said of the Midlothian squad.

Tagging along last year, he noted he could tell the Nansemond River girls were intimidated before they even got off the bus for the game.

“I’ve got to make sure my girls are ready to play and we don’t go up there with that mindset,” Straub said.

The Region 4A South championship game is set for this evening at 7 p.m.