Despite losing the state Player of the Year, this is where Jamestown’s boys soccer team envisioned itself on the first weekend of June. And it all started with a simple step.
Back in preseason, Eagles coach Bobby O’Brien gathered his core group of seniors, the five guys who had been with him the last four seasons. They remember the disappointment of 2011 and ’10, when Jamestown’s season ended in the state semifinals. And they know the program’s history, which includes a Group AA title in 2008.
O’Brien firmly believed that even with the loss of four starters, including Group AA Player of the Year Patrick O’Brien, there was no reason why the Eagles couldn’t be the last team standing in Radford. That is, if the seniors were ready to lead.
“I told them if you want this to happen, these are the things that have to happen,” Bobby O’Brien said. “Practice starts at 3 o’clock; they get out here at 2:20 on their own. I gave them a list of things to do, drills or whatever, until practice started.
“When the younger guys show up to practice and see the older guys doing that, it makes them work harder. They think, ‘Look at what these guys are doing. They’re not playing just because they’re seniors. They’re actually putting in the work that’s needed to be successful.’ ”
Success has been the norm at Jamestown, which is 88-14-6 in O’Brien’s five seasons. As with any such run, regardless of the level, veteran leadership has been crucial.
Forward Patrick Kelly, midfielder Hunter Hartnett, defender Drew Friedrichs and the Geyer twins — Dan and Phil, both defenders — are in their fourth years in the program. Each made first-team All-Region I. And each, O’Brien says, has been vital to the Eagles advancing to Friday’s semifinal against defending state champ Jefferson Forest.
Kelly, who will be playing next year at Mary Washington, set a school record with 34 goals this season. That’s along with 17 assists. So, doing the math, Kelly has had a hand in 51 of Jamestown’s 105 goals. No wonder he was Bay Rivers District and Region I Player of the Year.
“I told him last fall that he could break the scoring record,” O’Brien said. “He hung on every word and did everything that was asked of him.”
Hartnett, who is going to Christopher Newport, has 17 goals and eight assists. He missed five games with a stress fracture in his back. But he’s gutted it out the last three games.
“You could see from the look in his eyes he didn’t want to sit anymore,” O’Brien said.
Dan Geyer, who plans to attend the Air Force Academy after prep school, has four goals and 18 assists. He was an all-district forward but moved to defense to fill a hole.
“He’s the smallest guy on the field,” O’Brien said. “But he plays huge and everybody rallies around him.”
Phil Geyer, who is bound for Roanoke College, has two goals and 17 assists.
“He’s a great threat for us in the back,” O’Brien said. “It’s nice when defenders can attack.”
And then there’s Friedrichs, who hopes to walk on at Middlebury College in Vermont. He plays center back, which is the last line of defense before the keeper.
“He’s a leader,” O’Brien said. “He’s extremely fast, understands the game well and keeps us organized.”
Jamestown isn’t all seniors. There are younger stars like sophomores Jonathan and Matt Cullom and junior Mike Connell. But leadership sets the bar.
“I think it’s a huge factor because we’ve been here before,” Kelly said. “We have a lot of young kids on our team who don’t really know what they’re getting into. We’re able to sit them down and calm their nerves.”
They also know what it’s like to be playing on the first weekend of June. And, more than anything, they know this is their last chance for the trophy.
“My mind-set the whole postseason has been that I realize this is my senior year,” Dan Geyer said. “This is my last chance. There’s no room for error at this point.”