Following a rare spring in 2011, when the Bay Rivers District failed to bring home a Group AA state championship, Jamestown High’s boys soccer team put the league back on top of the state in the school year’s final season with a 4-3 win over Tuscarora at Radford University on Saturday.
The Eagles were the only one of three district semifinalists in the AA Spring Jubilee in Radford to reach a championship final. And they may be the best poised to do so next year.
It’s not that the Eagles don’t lose a lot of seniors, like the rest of the district’s state participants. On paper, their departing graduates would represent devastating losses for many athletic programs.
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Region I Player of the Year Patrick Kelly had a part in about half the Eagles’ 112 goals: with a school-record 36 goals and 19 assists. The Geyer twins, Dan (19 assists) and Phil (18 assists) were key to the attack, as was all-region selection Hunter Hartnett (19 goals, 10 assists).
The defense takes a hit too, as all-region pick Drew Friedrichs and hard-working Derrick Bills also graduate. But the Eagles expect these kind of hits, having graduated five starters and more than half the goals – many by former state Player of the Year Patrick O’Brien – from the 2011 team that reached the state semifinals.
They continue to thrive because of talent, nurtured in large part on the (Virginia Legacy) club level by the team’s excellent coach, former Jamestown star Bobby O’Brien. But the beat should go on because of the pride the players feel in the burgeoning tradition.
“The young kids learn from the older kids, so when the older kids leave they still feel like they’re part of the program,” Bobby O’Brien said. “The older kids come back to see the younger kids play and those younger kids want to uphold the tradition of those before them.
“That’s created a bond over all the groups we’ve had in the five years I’ve been coach.”
Jamestown’s next state Player of the Year candidate could be Jon Cullom, whose 31st goal of this season – with 7 minutes, 46 seconds left in the state final – proved to be the game winner. His return and the return of four other starters – Trevor Hartnett, Mike Connell, Wilson Coughenour and Matt Cullom – along with a talented group of reserves and JV callups, should keep Jamestown in the state hunt.
Grafton baseball and Poquoson softball are tradition-rich district programs that also reached this year’s AA semifinals. How they replace losses as significant as Jamestown’s will also dictate whether they are again state contenders.
The Clippers (25-3) lose seven starters from a senior-dominated lineup that led the way to a school-record 25 wins, district, district tournament and Region I titles, and a trip to the state semifinals. Among the losses are center fielder Kyri Washington and ace pitcher Blake Ream (9-1), both of whom made first team Group AA all-state and will play next year (along with all-district second baseman CJ Roth) at Division I Longwood.
The cupboard will be far from bare. Freshman Evan Sperling pitched in numerous key situations, outfielder Nic Kurz was the team RBI leader and Lane Deaver was a defensive standout in left field.
In addition, the program will benefit from a junior varsity that went 20-0, so it’s likely the Clippers will contend again for at least the district title next season.
“I don’t know if I’d say we were rebuilding,” Grafton coach Matt Lewellen said. “We might have to play more small ball without the big, strong seniors of this year, but we’ll be pretty good.”
Islanders coach Colleen Duman gets the question all of the time: “What are you going to do without (pitcher) Maggie Tyler?” It’s a legitimate inquiry following a brilliant four-year career capped by a senior season in which her 25-3 record and 19 shutouts – not to mention 10.3 strikeouts a game and a 0.30 earned run average – led the Islanders into the state semifinals.
Duman won’t even pretend to replace her 1,002 career strikeouts and the 12 home runs of the past two seasons. But, remember, the Islanders made the state tournament the year before Tyler arrived, and often in the years before that.
Capable Madison Ramsey and perhaps Karlee Holzbach or a JV callup, will combine to give the Islanders pitching talent in numbers. And with 2012 standouts Holzbach, Sydney Turner, Logan Walker, Emily Gummo, Hailey Sawyer and Kathryn Roper among a group of experienced returners, the Islanders will remain near the top of the softball-tough Bay Rivers.
“We’ll miss Maggie, (second baseman) Hanna Ealey, (first baseman) Jessica Snelgrow and (center fielder) Brooke Sarrazin,” Duman said. “But I’m really looking forward to the challenge next year.”