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In the Jefferson Forest team room sits a white board. Across the top of that board the following message is scrawled: JF girls soccer State champs.
Whether that thought proves prophetic remains to be seen. What is clear, at this point in time, is that the Lady Cavs are poised to become the 2013 Seminole District champs.
With a romping, rollicking 8-1 victory over Liberty on Thursday, JF improved its district mark to 9-0-1 (as the Lady Cavs also won a soggy tilt with Amherst this past Monday evening), sustaining a one-game edge over E.C. Glass.
The Lady Cavs have two games remaining. Assuming they can take care of business against Heritage (at home on Thursday) and Rustburg (away on May 13), they'll claim the district title tin for the seventh straight year and the 17th time in the program's 19 years of existence.
Against Liberty, the lasses in red and black played as well as they have all season. "They looked very good," assessed Liberty Head Coach Jeff Steele. "We did not. [JF] was very up-tempo."
Indeed, the Lady Cavs were up-tempo from the very start, pouring in three goals in the match's first three minutes. Ashlie Freeman, Cassidy Ratliff and Dani Tiffany each struck in that 180 seconds of swirling, twirling dervishness by JF.
Those three tallies effectively iced the game. That's not a knock on Liberty's offensive potential. Rather, it is an acknowledgement of a Jeff Forest defense that may well be the best in the state. They'll give up a single goal, such as the one Liberty's Laura Garbarini picked up in converting a penalty kick, but that's it. Nobody scores more than once against keeper Allie Gossen and her crew of defenders.
Special kudos, by the way, to Jessica O'Bryant for her play on the back line. The senior defensive specialist basically lived in Garbarini's back pocket, helping to thwart the Seminole District's biggest scoring threat. O'Bryant's pursuit ended only as Garbarini boarded the Liberty team bus.
With that smothering blanket yielding not a whit, JF was free to open things up offensively. Showing crisp passing and excellence on set plays, JF made Sabre Stadium look more like an artillery range. In particular a couple more scoring strikes by Ratliff were the booming, bending, heart-breaking kind: every goalkeeper's nightmare.
Freeman added another goal on a bullet of a header. The remaining goals came from Dana Bryant and Riley Lee.
"We're connecting on our passing and seeing the field the way we should," said team tri-captain Alyssa Mitchell, who helped initiate several key plays from the midfield. "We knew we had to come out hard against [Liberty]."
With the Seminole crown in reach, have the Lady Cavs begun to think about a run to the State tourney at Radford, the place they've ended their last two seasons? "It's overarching," noted Gossen. "But we have to hit our short term goals."
Liberty, meanwhile, will aim to regroup and become one of the three teams from the Seminole to qualify for regional play. At this point, it appears the Lady Minutemen (7-3) will have to vie with Glass and Amherst for one of the final two slots.