CHRISTIANSBURG — Stonewall Jackson's girls soccer team fought tooth and nail with Auburn on Saturday in the Virginia High School League Class 1 final, but ultimately came up just short of the program's first state title.
The Generals lost 5-4 on penalty kicks to the Eagles in a game heavily affected by the weather at Christiansburg High School. There was a hard, steady rain throughout the contest, as well as a high wind.
"We definitely played our hearts out," Stonewall Jackson sophomore Katie Jordan said. "It took a lot of effort to get here. It definitely wasn't given to us. We left out hearts on that field and we gave it our all. It's a team. We worked together as a team and we were a team tonight. And we're still walking off the field as a a team."
The game came down to penalty kicks, with each team having five players take one each. Auburn went first and took the early lead with Jessica Musselman sending a shot past Stonewall Jackson goalkeeper Lilly Proctor.
Stonewall Jackson sophomore Eli Dellinger tied it at 1-1 with a shot past Auburn goalkeeper Rachel Rodriguez.
"It was pretty nerve-wracking," Dellinger said. "Going first is not always the best, but I felt pretty confident in myself. We've been working on PK's for a while in the past few weeks. I went up and I was thinking I'm going to look in the corner and make her think I'm going this way and then go the other way and I think it worked pretty well."
Auburn's Elizabeth Tomlin made it 2-1 and Stonewall Jackson junior Chloe Monroe responded with a goal of her own to tie it at 2-2.
Auburn's Abby Lofton and Stonewall Jackson senior Virginia Biller each made a goal to make it 3-3.
"We spent a whole practice on them," Biller said. "So for me, I was just like you know what? You know where to hit it. You know how to do it — just do it. That's all you got to do."
Auburn's Lindsay Harris and Stonewall Jackson sophomore Kylene Franklin followed suit with a goal each to make the score, 4-4.
"For me personally, whenever I take a penalty kick I kind of clear out my mind," Franklin said. "Because if I focus on what I'm doing it for I'll get in my own head. I just have to clear my head out and know that I have this."
Auburn's Brianna Lohrmann scored past Proctor for a 5-4 lead. Stonewall Jackson junior Janine Nunez-Vargas took the final shot for the Generals but missed wide right.
As Auburn celebrated, Stonewall Jackson's players went over to Nunez-Vargas to console her.
"We were definitely disappointed but not in her," Franklin said of Nunez-Vargas. "We could have had that [match] in the first overtime. We could have pushed through. We tried to get that goal. So we definitely do not blame [Nunez-Vargas] at all because it's the whole team. It's not just one person."
Stonewall Jackson coach Ginny Dellinger said both Nunez-Vargas and Proctor did their best and she felt bad for both of them. She said that Nunez-Vargas did a great job when they worked on penalty kicks in practice but even the pros miss penalty kicks sometimes.
Ginny Dellinger said Proctor was in a tough spot and she was proud of how she handled it.
"Lilly's been a solid keeper for us, but she's never faced a penalty shootout before," Ginny Dellinger said. "So it's a tough situation for her to handle. She handled it with as much poise as I could have expected."
Biller said despite the loss in penalty kicks she's just as proud as ever of her team.
"I think that our team played absolutely amazing," Biller said. "If we want to be honest when it comes to penalty kicks — that doesn't show a team's better. It shows they have another one in than you. So in my book, we're just as good as to be state champions."
Neither team could muster much offense in the weather conditions. The Generals (19-5) had only one shot on goal in the first half and the Eagles were able to control possession most of the half.
"The rain was probably one of the biggest keys, so was the wind," Franklin said. "Rain was getting in our eyes, kind of slowing us down because our clothes are so wet. The wind definitely like resisting the ball -- it didn't help us, either."
With the wind at their backs in the second half, the Generals had more opportunities. As the game wore on, Stonewall Jackson started to control the ball more and have better scoring chances but couldn't find the back of the net.
One of the best scoring opportunities came in the last five-minute sudden death overtime. Eli Dellinger hit a shot that looked like it might go in, but instead missed by a couple inches.
"It was just a few inches off to the side," Eli Dellinger said. "I was really hoping we were going to get one. It was exciting but sometimes things just don't go your way."
The loss snapped Stonewall Jackson's nine-match winning streak. Ginny Dellinger said that she couldn't have been more proud of her team this season.
"It's disappointing to get this far and lose, but I'm also really proud of them," she said. "We really, really wanted to bring something home for our community that has really come out and supported us. It's still a really big milestone for the program. I'm proud of that. I think the girls, after the pain lessens a little bit, they'll still be proud of this. And I know our community is going to welcome us back with open arms."