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December 17, 2013

Hokies' history-making season ends at College Cup

By: Jimmy Robertson

The Tech women’s soccer team lost to Florida State in a thrilling semifinal, ending a season that saw the program accomplish many firsts

Tech women’s soccer coach Chugger Adair and the Hokies won a school-record 19 games this season and came one win short of the national championship game, falling to Florida State 3-2 in a national semifinal match.

Fans, students, parents, children, working class locals or some combination thereof shelled out hard-earned money to watch the women’s soccer College Cup semifinal matchup between Virginia Tech and Florida State at the fancy digs at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, N.C.

As the patrons walked to their vehicles afterward, they should have reached into their wallets and purses and left some money at the ticket office.

For sure, they got a discount the first time around.

On an evening that defied normal December weather patterns, the Hokies saw their glorious season come to an end following one of the most magnificent soccer matches many in these parts had ever witnessed. A fluke-like goal in the 82nd minute by FSU’s Jamia Fields turned out to be the game winner in a 3-2 decision and left the Hokies dissecting the best season in school history.

“It’s been amazing, no matter what happened,” Tech’s Jazmine Reeves said. “I’m really proud of our team. To make it to the College Cup is outstanding. I’m disappointed obviously with the result, but sometimes that happens. I couldn’t be more proud of my team and couldn’t be more excited about what was done this season.”

The disappointment comes not so much from losing the match, but how the Hokies lost it.

Fields’ goal – her second of the game – came just four minutes after Tech had tied the game at 2. The tying goal came when Ashley Meier received a perfect ball from Ashley Manning, who delivered it to Meier’s feet, and Meier found the back of the net in the 78th minute.

Four minutes later, Fields made her way up the right flank and launched a shot from well outside the box toward the upper left corner of the goal. Tech goalkeeper Dayle Colpitts got a hand on it, but the ball ricocheted off the post, hit Colpitts in the back and lazily rolled into the net for a goal.

“It was a tricky ball,” Colpitts said. “It went off my hand, off the post, off me, off everything … and it went in. It’s unfortunate. I’m disappointed.”

Tech nearly tied the match in the waning moments. With 1:05 remaining, Reeves launched a shot that beat FSU goalkeeper Kelsey Wys – but unfortunately hit the crossbar. She missed tying the game by inches.

“I’ll probably think about it every day,” Reeves said of the shot. “There’s nothing I can do about it now. I can only just hopefully remember the good memories of the season and move forward from there.”

“Sometimes in this game, you’ve got to have a little luck,” FSU coach Mark Krikorian admitted.

Tech certainly had its chances. Reeves hit the left post in the 67th minute with a shot that would have tied the game at 2. In the 52nd minute, Wys made a diving save of a Manning header. In the 49th minute, Katie Yensen played a good ball in to Morgan Conklin, who had a great look, but the shot sailed left. Early in the game, a Meier header skimmed wide.

“We were a bit unlucky,” Tech coach Charles “Chugger” Adair said. “Florida State is a good side, but we were a bit unlucky. We hit the post twice. Going down 2-1 and fighting back to make it interesting and then giving up an unfortunate goal … that’s just how it worked out. Jazzy [Reeves] hit the post twice.

“It just didn’t fall for us.”

For the Hokies, a fantastic season ended. Yet it was truly a season of firsts.

Tech won a school-record 19 games, finishing 19-5-3. The Hokies scored a school-record 56 goals. Reeves became the Hokies’ first All-ACC first-team choice and first All-American. They earned the program’s first No. 1 seed in an NCAA Tournament. They made it to the NCAA quarterfinals for the first time. Then they made it to the College Cup.

They’ve enjoyed an amazing run under Adair, who wrapped up his third year. Kelly Cagle resigned three years ago because of family reasons, and Tech’s entire team marched into Sharon McCloskey’s office. The players told Tech’s senior associate AD and senior woman administrator that they wanted Adair, an assistant under Cagle for five seasons, as their coach.

The parents then called McCloskey. Recruits called her. As she later joked, “Everyone called me wanting Chugger.”

Normally these types of decisions can be a little dicey. School AD’s and administrators often like to hire females to coach women’s sports.

But the support for Adair was overwhelming, and Tech AD Jim Weaver decided to tab him as the leader of the women’s soccer program.

“Honestly, Kelly was the first woman coach I’d ever had, so it wasn’t any different for me personally,” Reeves said. “They have different coaching styles, but they’re both very effective. He pushes us, day in and day out. He’s amazing. He has great standards, and that’s what you need as a coach.

“We already had a great foundation built, and he was firsthand around it. We knew he would keep those values and things like that, and he’s a great coach. You could tell how intelligent he was. He knows the game of soccer, and he knows how to relate to people. We knew without a doubt that we wanted him to be our coach.”

Colpitts agreed.

“We all knew him well, and he knew us so well,” she said. “We had complete confidence in him from the start.”

That confidence has been rewarded. Adair is now 46-19-5 as the Hokies’ head coach, with a 17-13-3 mark in the ACC – the toughest women’s soccer conference in the nation. The program appears to be built for the long run, too, as many key players return for next season.

For Reeves and Colpitts, that provides little consolation now. They are two of seven seniors – the most important two. The finality of what transpired in Cary, N.C., hurts.

But they do expect the future to be great.

Since I’ve been here, I’ve seen the program get better and better, and I don’t see that stopping now,” Reeves said. “Even before I got here, the program was building and building, and we have a great foundation. It’s going to continue to build, and I’m excited to see what’s going to happen next. I really am. It’s going to be great.”

Looking toward the future

Adair didn’t take any time off to celebrate Tech’s terrific season after the Hokies’ loss to the Seminoles in the College Cup. In fact, he took the opposite approach.

He went recruiting.

Adair planned on going to a junior soccer tournament in the Cary, N.C., area the day after the Hokies’ loss. Tech loses the seven seniors, including two of the program’s best ever players in Reeves and Colpitts. The Hokies also lose steady Manning and her 13 career goals – Manning had a goal and an assist against FSU – and defender Taylor Antolino, who started 26 games this season.

In fact, the Hokies lose 45 career goals and 34 career assists off this team, and that doesn’t include Kelly Conheeney’s 26 career goals and 23 career assists. Conheeney missed all of this year and most of last year because of a concussion suffered in the fourth game last season.

Colpitts leaves with 82 career starts, 274 career saves and a 1.154 career goals against average. She ranks as one of the best goalkeepers, if not the best, in school history.

So Adair needs to find replacements, and he also figures to look at underclassmen. Unlike a lot of ACC programs, which focus on recruiting international players, Adair – and Cagle before him – focus on bringing in regional talent and developing that talent. Tech’s 2013 roster included 13 Virginians and an assortment of players from North Carolina, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Ohio.

That plan has worked in other sports. Actually, Frank Beamer has made that strategy work in football. And if a coach can get to the College Cup doing this, why not continue recruiting this way instead of pursuing international talent?

“You have to find the right international kids. That’s the first thing,” Adair said. “But I think we just continue to build and get the girls that believe in themselves. As we learned from Kelly [Cagle], she always focused on baby steps and the positives as we moved along the way. We’ve tried to continue on that process and continue to grow and continue to get better and better as we move forward.

“We’ll continue to work hard and push forward. The girls have had a little taste of it now. I’m sure they want to get back here.”

Tech returns a ton of firepower for next season. The Hokies return three of the top four point scorers this season in Murielle Tiernan, Meier and Yensen. Tiernan, a freshman this season, tied Reeves in goals (11) and assists (5), while Meier had nine goals. Yensen finished with seven goals – five game-winning goals, tying for the team high with Tiernan. Interestingly, the Hokies have not lost in Yensen’s career when she scores a point (19-0).

Three of the four All-ACC players return in Tiernan, Meier and Jordan Coburn, a defender who started all 27 games. Midfielder Kelsey Loupee and her 29 career points return, along with 27-game starters and defenders Jodie Zelenky and Danielle King.

The Hokies, who were picked to finish ninth in the ACC this past season by the league’s head coaches, easily could make a run back to the College Cup in 2014.

“We’re going to move forward,” Adair said. “We’re going to miss some seniors, but we’re going to push and hold the standards high for the girls and grow as a program.

“Every year, the expectation is going to be getting back here [Cary, N.C.] and try to win a national championship. That’s where we’re going to set our standard. We’re going to continue to try to climb up that rung and get into the finals and win a championship. That’s the goal of the program.”

Reeves becomes Tech’s first Hermann Trophy semifinalist

Reeves became the first Tech women’s soccer player to be named a semifinalist for the Missouri Athletic Club’s Hermann Trophy, the highest intercollegiate soccer award. The finalists were named Dec. 12, and the winner will be announced at a banquet on Jan. 10, 2014.

Reeves tied for the team lead this season in both goals (11) and assists (5), and she finished tied for third on the team with two game-winning goals. She started 25 of Tech’s 27 games.

Reeves also became the program’s first All-American this season, earning first-team honors by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America in an announcement made the same day as the College Cup semifinal. A few weeks earlier, Reeves became the first Tech player to make the All-ACC first team.