Lady Warriors prepped for states

Published 9:17 pm Thursday, June 11, 2015

Nansemond River High School sophomore forward Daijah Norris, No. 25, will be a key part of the Lady Warriors' game plan in today's VHSL Group 4A state semifinal in Amherst.

Nansemond River High School sophomore forward Daijah Norris, No. 25, will be a key part of the Lady Warriors’ game plan in today’s VHSL Group 4A state semifinal in Amherst.

Nansemond River High School’s girls’ soccer team has been preparing this week for Suffolk history. Today, the Lady Warriors become the first soccer team from any of the five current Suffolk high schools to play at the state level.

NR will face off against Loudoun County High School in the Virginia High School League Group 4A state semifinals at noon in Amherst.

“There’s only one thing you can do,” Lady Warriors coach Kurt Straub said, giving his thoughts ahead of the game. “It’s win or go home.”

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Nansemond River (13-6-1) has practiced on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday this week in preparation for the Lady Raiders (20-0-1). While Loudoun County’s record is impressive, Straub indicated his team may have navigated a more difficult schedule, with more 5A and 6A opponents.

When teams from two significantly different parts of Virginia face off, they often know very little about each other. Straub has done some research to give his players a sense of what they are up against.

He said Loudoun County has a strong midfield and quick forwards but noted the speed of his own forwards could be a key factor that works in the Lady Warriors’ favor.

Straub said that to be successful, Nansemond River needs to stick to the game plan and conserve energy by not letting opponents play keep-away.

“Against Midlothian, we decided to chase, and they capitalized,” he said.

The coach said his defense, midfield and offense would all need to step up. The defense will be bolstered by the return from injury of junior Kendall Webster.

The Lady Warriors’ injury report features only one player — senior goalkeeper Samantha Henry. Sophomore Savannah Miller will continue to be the goalie as she was for nearly all of the regional playoffs, and Straub expressed confidence in her.

“By now, she’s already had three huge games that she’s played in,” he said.

He is also happy to have junior Jen Herrera back. She was sidelined for an extended period of time due to a knee injury but returned briefly in the regional semifinal and scored NR’s only goal in the regional final.

“She can play anywhere,” he said. “Having her back and having an extra sub definitely helps.”

Two variables that will be significant are the time of the game, noon, and the playing surface, turf.

“It’s going to be hot,” Straub said, after noting it is supposed to be 86 degrees but will feel like it is 90.

He also indicated the make-up of the turf may contribute to the heat, along with it being an unfamiliar playing surface to his girls.

But he said some previous indoor practices should give them a preview of how the ball will behave on a harder surface.

The girls’ performance this week has Straub feeling confident.

“We had a good practice Tuesday, good practice yesterday,” he said on Thursday. “From what I can tell, they look focused.”

The state semifinal will take place at Amherst County High School. If the Lady Warriors win, they will play on Saturday at 10 a.m. in the state championship at Liberty University.