With a roster comprised largely of freshmen and sophomores, Gloucester rolled through the Peninsula District's regular season for a championship few on the other side of the Coleman Bridge saw coming. Yet in the first round of the Eastern Region tournament, the Dukes saw a different level of talent.
Facing a team with several year-round club players, Gloucester's season ended with a 3-1 loss to Grassfield on Tuesday afternoon at the ODU Soccer Complex. It could haven worse: The Grizzlies (12-4-1) had 13 shots on frame, 10 of which were saved by goalie Cheyenne Hogge.
"We play good together and all," said Dukes freshman Maegan Beck, who scored her team's only goal. "But they look like they're seniors."
Actually, Grassfield has only five seniors, but it does have 13 juniors. And even its young players have plenty of club experience.
"You could see that on the field," Gloucester coach Bob Fisher said. "Once you get to the Southside, the player pool draws from more clubs. They get a lot of top-flight players, which is fine. Overall, I'm really proud of the girls. They stepped it up."
Gloucester (10-6-2) had to feel pretty fortunate at halftime. Despite at least four-fifths of the game being played on their end of the field, the Dukes trailed only 1-0.
On a goal kick in the game's 12th minute, Hogge managed to get it about 20 yards down field. Grassfield's Haylea Witz intercepted, moved in, and shot from about 15 yards to the right of the goal. Her shot beat Hogge to the wide side.
Gloucester's first shot didn't come until the 29th minute when Delaney Doyle lofted a pretty shot from straight on and about 20 yards. But Grassfield goalie Caroline Casey had enough room up top for the save.
The Grizzlies nearly doubled their lead two minutes later. Hogge deflected Lexi Jones' shot off the crossbar and fell to the ground. The ball landed a couple yards in front of her, and Grassfield's Alyssa Rashid converged. But Hogge got up and controlled the ball.
"Kudos to our keeper and our defense," Fisher said. "(Hogge) had some excellent saves.
Grassfield made it 2-0 on Samantha Phillips' goal less than a minute into the second half. It was 3-0 until Beck scored off an assist from Doyle.
With 17 players on the roster who are either freshmen or sophomores, there's little reason to doubt the Dukes won't make it back to the regionals next year. But Fisher hopes they will develop that extra gear.
"They're a fun group, and they just love playing," he said. "They don't have that killer instinct yet, which the competitive teams like the ones over here have."
GRASSFIELD 3, GLOUCESTER 1
Halftime: 1-0, Grassfield. Goals: Gloucester, Beck. Grassfield, Witz, Phillips, Schoeneck. Assists: Gloucester, Doyle. Grassfield, Jones, Balcom. Saves: Gloucester (Hogge) 10, Grassfield (Casey) 1. Records: Gloucester 10-6-2, Grassfield 12-4-1.
HICKORY 5, WOODSIDE 0
The Wolverines' best season in school history came to a quick end in their first trip to the Eastern Region quarterfinals.
The Hawks scored two goals in the first 18 minutes and put it on cruise control in advancing to the semifinals. Hickory (13-4-2) will play Cox, which crushed Granby 8-0 in the day's third quarterfinal.
Sierra Merkes scored off Payton Ormsby's assist on a corner kick in the game's fourth minute. Nearly 13 minutes later, Ormsby followed her own shot to make it 2-0.
Less than five minutes into the second half, The Hawks made it 3-0 on Allison Pinello's breakaway goal on an assist from Ormsby. Then, Hickory benefited from an own-goal off another corner kick in the 62nd minute. Merkes capped the scoring with her second goal eight minutes later.
Ormsby had one goal and two assists for Hickory.
Woodside (10-3-2) set a school record for victories and won its first Peninsula District tournament.
HICKORY 5, WOODSIDE 0
Halftime: 2-0, Hickory. Goals: Hickory, Merkes (2), Ormsby, Pinello. Assists: Ormsby (2). Shots: Woodside 2, Hickory 14. Saves: Woodside (Thomas) 7. Hickory (Wheeler) 1.