ST. PARIS – Graham defeated Urbana, 5-1, in the Division II girls sectional soccer tournament on Tuesday, avenging a regular-season loss to the Hillclimbers.
It was the first tournament win for Graham since 2009.
“(Graham) came out and wanted it more than we did tonight,” UHS Coach Brandon Deskins said. “I start five freshmen. We ball-watched a lot in the first half and lost our man. I don’t know if it was youth or nerves or a little bit of both, we just didn’t have it tonight.”
Urbana got beaten on the back end a few times early, with Graham converting to take an early lead.
Lexi Neeld opened the scoring with a goal just 1:10 into the match, giving Graham the advantage. Just 10 minutes later, Natalie Woodward scored the first of her 3 goals to put the Falcons in excellent position.
Graham’s players found one another again and again, tormenting both the Urbana defense and keeper Magdaline Perry.
“They’ve been working together for a long time. So there’s some chemistry there,” Graham Coach Tristan Bogan said. “Anytime you have a large senior class, getting everyone playing time is difficult. But understanding that just because you’re a senior doesn’t mean you play goes a long way toward keeping them focused. They’re not worried about themselves. They’re worried about the team.”
Urbana made them worry a short time later, putting a few efforts on goal off of a corner kick. The Falcons turned each attempt away before the ball settled at the feet of Cassidy James and she put it in for a score to narrow the lead to 2-1.
That was the only black mark against Graham keeper Ashton Curnutte, who made several nice saves and kept Urbana under control.
“She’s a special player. She’s real focused in practice. She loves getting dirty; she loves the position. She takes real pride in keeping that ball out of the net,” Bogan said. “She likes the pressure that comes with the position and it’s hard to find kids that gravitate towards that.”
Graham opened up the margin to two again when Alli Neeld scored in the 21st minute.
Graham came out firing again in the second half, banging a ball off the post and getting a couple of other quality shots before Woodward buried her second goal of the night in the 49th minute. She scored again to complete the hat trick in the 63rd minute, allowing the Falcons to bring in reserves and play out the clock.
Graham advances to play Shawnee on Saturday at 7 p.m.
Indians still third
Mechanicsburg (8-0) remains third in the latest Division VI, Region 24 computer football playoff poll. WL-S (4-4) is 12th in the same region.
The top eight teams in each region advance to the playoffs and the top four host a first-round game.
Reach Justin Miller at 652-1331 (ext. 1776) or on Twitter @UDC_Miller.