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We may not yet rival the likes of Brazil, Italy or Spain.
But, Bedford is certainly becoming a hotbed of soccer.
The fruits of many years of labor paid off last week as five of the six local high school varsity squads advanced to regional competition.
They did so by either winning or placing second in their respective conference tourneys. Actually, four of these teams won their first-ever conference championships. The Liberty boys and girls took the Conference 30 crowns, while their colleagues from Jefferson Forest did likewise in Conference 24.
The Staunton River Lady Eagles earned runner-up status in Conference 31, the only River team to advance past conference play.
By and large, the conference finales pitted local teams against old acquaintances. Bedford County teams acquitted themselves with aplomb.
Three of the five contests may have been among the more thrilling games of the entire season.
-The JF boys topped E.C. Glass on penalty kicks after they'd worn out the stadium clock at Sabre Stadium.
-The Liberty boys won an emotional and physical contest against a bunch of Brookville Bees who gave as good as they got. The Minutemen's senior leadership led the way on that one.
-The Staunton River girls left it all on the field but fell to Lord Botetourt in a thriller, 1-0, in the Conference 31 finale.
In one of the other two conference championship games, Liberty had little difficulty with Tunstall, thrashing the Trojans, 4-0. Laura Garbarini continued to amass her impressive scoring totals, netting a pair of goals. Lizzie Boone and Emilia Sasi also tallied for the Lady Minutemen, as they swept their way to the first-ever Conference 30 championship trophy.
In the other championship game, Jefferson Forest turned on the jets to knock away a pesky E.C. Glass team. The Lady Cavs dominated to the tune of 5-0.
In their three other meetings, the teams had played it close, with JF winning twice, and Glass taking a 1-0 win over the Lady Cavs.
In a huge statement win, Jefferson Forest's statement was, "We're not messing around anymore."
Thoughts about this
-The Liberty boys win may have been the most surprising.
Even though the Minutemen were the top seed in their conference, the slate of teams looked fairly balanced.
Plus, the big guns on the team are, by and large, seniors. Correction: They're alumni of the school, having graduated nearly two weeks ago.
But, those grads showed they still have Liberty pride. Rucker Shipp nailed a goal with six minutes remaining to boost the M-Men over a resilient Heritage crew in the semifinal.
Ryan Rodes and Matthew Thompson then scored the team's only goals in the finale, a 2-1 win over archrival Brookville.
"Our seniors really stepped up," said Liberty Head Coach Eric Seckman. "That's what we needed."
-The Staunton River girls should be holding their heads up proudly.
After yielding a cheap-o, chip shot goal to the Bots, the Eagles played with fierce intensity the rest of the way.
Credit Lord Bot for a stellar defense, one which limited the Eagles to shooting from beyond a 30 yard arc.
Of note, Emmy Hillman played as though her hair were a'fire. As Taylor Tester moves on next year, the leadership of this team is safe in the hands of the likes of Hillman.
-Matthew Crider is the man.
One day after being released by the doctors from his leg injury, the big fella was back in action.
Rusty? Not this guy. Crider scored the game-tying goal to put the Cavs into OT with Glass.
Then, he drilled the game-winning penalty kick.
He's bound to create great memories over the next four years at the U.S. Naval Academy. But this one will be hard to top.
Of course, helping his team to a State title as a freshman was a pretty good one too!
-It's good to be Laura Garbarini.
Even though she's graduated and set to move on to Roanoke College, the superb striker continued to do well by her alma mater.
Garbarini's two goals against Heritage pushed the Lady Minutemen into the Conference 30 finals where, as you know, she scored another pair of tallies.
In case you think Garbarini only knows how to put the ball in the net, you'd best think again. She's one of the smoothest handlers on the field: Deft and precise.