‘Difficult schedule’ for Lady Bulldogs

Published 9:43 pm Thursday, April 28, 2016

By Matthew Hatfield

Special to the News-Herald

King’s Fork High School’s girls soccer team has prepared for the upcoming Conference 17 portion of its schedule by playing some of the better teams around the Hampton Roads area.

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Though the results haven’t always been to their liking, coach Mike Marston is confident his squad can reap the benefits later, provided the Lady Bulldogs learn from those experiences.

One of those tough challengers came on Monday night in a 4-1 home loss to Kellam, a perennial contender out of Virginia Beach that competes in Class 6A.

“The score wasn’t really indicative,” Masson said. “We controlled probably the first 25-30 minutes of the second half and had a number of opportunities.”

Before the half, King’s Fork scored a key goal when Christopher Newport University commit Logan Montel played a ball through to Cydney Nichols, who went 1-2-1 against their center back Talia Tapper, an Old Dominion commit.

Nichols scored 30 goals a season ago, but she has been slowed by a high ankle sprain she suffered in basketball and a knee injury during the Oscar Smith match. This time, she found the net.

That put the Lady Bulldogs within striking distance, trailing 2-1 at intermission.

“It was a nice pass by Logan, who ironically plays club ball with Talia,” pointed out Marston. “And Cydney made a nice run.”

Coach Marston decided to push Second Team All-State center Skylar Wall back to striker in an effort to get more of an attacking threat. The move nearly paid off, but Kellam prevented them from tying it up and gained some breathing room.

“We had five really quality scoring opportunities to get it to 2-2 and I don’t even think they possessed the ball in our defending third the rest of the half until they scored their third goal,” Marston said. “They ended up scoring two goals in the last few minutes because we were a little disorganized with players not being used to that leadership role and responsibilities back there without Skylar.”

Even with the loss, King’s Fork hopes the competition it has faced will have them ready for the remainder of the 2016 campaign.

“This is by far the most difficult schedule we’ve had,” Marston said. “I believe we’ve played three 6A teams and three 5A teams. But I’d say we’ve had an opportunity to win every game that we’ve played, even the 4-1 game against Kellam.”

“Top to bottom, their roster is filled with players who play club ball for Beach FC. Their coach (Mario Hurdle) is actually an assistant at Virginia Wesleyan. They’re a quality team. We took a couple of coaching points and lessons learned out of it that will serve us well moving forward.”

King’s Fork hosts Deep Creek in its Conference 17 opener on Wednesday.

Whoever wins the Conference 17 regular season title will be the top seed for the 4A-East Region Tournament. The Conference 17 Tournament champion gets the second seed, unless it is the same team that won the regular season title, which in that case the other regional berth will go to whoever finishes runner-up in the conference tourney.

“I think that’s the way it should be; the team that was more consistent over the long haul, versus maybe one team got hot or one team caught a few breaks in the last game,” Marston said.

Each of the last two years, both King’s Fork and Nansemond River had to face a Midlothian team with four players selected First Team All-State, Marston noted.

“Getting a No. 1 seed heading into regionals is critical because there’s a huge difference playing a second seed versus the top seed,” he added.

“We have more talent than we’ve ever had in school history, but we’ve moved around a few freshmen and sophomores to new positions to get them as much high-level match experience as possible. Our communication from the sideline is a lot quicker and they understand the vocabulary now. The goal was to peak towards the end of the season and feel like we’re going to have the opportunity to do that.”