SALEM — Jamestown’s Rylan Hoerning had the ball at his feet Friday when the final horn sounded on the first of two Class 4 boys soccer state semifinal games at Roanoke College, and he couldn’t take his eyes off of it.
Hoerning bent forward, hands on his knees, transfixed on the black and white checkered sphere between his cleats. Behind him, a teammate yanked the front of his jersey over his face. Another spread his arms to either side with his palms facing the sky, searching for an answer in the dark gray rain clouds hovering overhead.
Charlottesville’s 4-2 victory was Jamestown’s first defeat of the season, and it punched the Black Knights’ ticket to the state championship game for the second time in three years.
Charlottesville returns to Roanoke College at 11 a.m. on Saturday to face Chancellor for the Class 4 state championship.
“We, as a school, haven’t had much success in sports over the past decade or so,” Charlottesville defender Joe Von Storch said. “So, if we can come here [Saturday] and get the win, that would be so huge for us as a soccer team and as a school.”
After Friday’s rain-soaked affair, the Black Knights (17-1-1) were businesslike. The Eagles’ emotions were painted all over their faces, but Jamestown goalie Luke Anderson may be the only player on the team looking in the mirror at actual bruises for the next few days.
On Charlottesville’s first goal, which came off the foot of West Virginia commit Kyle Lenhert, Anderson stopped the first of a quick barrage of three shots with his face.
Moments later, before Aidan Folger finished a pass from Rachade Kondo for a 2-1 lead, Anderson tried stop it before it began with a slide tackle. As Kondo leapt over him, his cleat connected with the right side of the goalie’s face.
Anderson came into the game with a program-record 12 clean sheets this season and had given up just seven goals in 18 games, but by halftime, Charlottesville led, 3-1.
“Our game plan is to always play our brand of soccer,” Charlottesville head coach Martin Braun said. “It’s about possession and aggression, taking care of the ball and playing direct. When we do that, we create a ton of chances and we trust each other to finish them.”
After a shot from Lenhert trickled through his hands late in the second half and was finished by a tap from Kondo for a 4-1 lead, Anderson lay flat on the ground, his arms extended above his head and his forehead buried in the wet turf. A few of his teammates probably would have liked to join him.
“We have a great team,” Braun said. “We have great individual players and overall there’s really no weak spots on the team, and that showed today.”
The Eagles (18-1) struck first on Friday when leading scorer Michael Meese finished a perfect sideline pass from 25 yards away with a header in the 8th minute. It was his 52nd goal of the year, which set a new single-season program record, but Meese managed just two more shots on goal the rest of the game.
“Obviously we knew about how good he’s been this season,” Von Storch said. “We told our center backs that he was their job, and then we had the pulling mid do a great job of coming back and helping out. Any time he was coming down the sideline, us — as outside backs — were trying to limit his ability to step inside and hit a shot.”
Charlottesville took its 3-1 lead into halftime after Ayat Mohamed snuck behind Anderson in the 32nd minute and finished an arcing pass from Benhui Ryang. With a little more than six minutes left in regulation, Jamestown scored to cut the Black Knights’ lead to two but would get no closer.