Red faces and teary eyes marked the Battlefield girls’ soccer team as they walked off the field on Tuesday following a 1-0 loss to Cox in the Virginia AAA quarterfinals in Haymarket. But asked soon after the defeat if she was already looking forward to next season, junior forward Sarai Arbus broke rank and mustered a smile.
“I think with our coaches and everything, no matter what team we got, we’d still have a shot,” she said.
Added Battlefield Coach Kevin Hilton: “It’s hard to think about that for me right now because of the seniors who really busted their humps for four years, so I feel bad for them. But the underclassmen that are out here, the sky is the limit next year.”
Four of the Bobcats’ top five goal-scorers, as well as their entire back line, save for senior Sammie Trone, are set to return next season. Having claimed the past two Northwest Region titles, they’ll have plenty of experience. Overall, only one senior starter from Tuesday’s roster will graduate.
On Tuesday, the sixth-ranked Bobcats (16-4-3) more than held their own against Cox (19-2-2), a state finalist last spring. Battlefield, which has reached the state tournament three of the past five seasons, traded blows and possessions with Cox throughout much of the game. Both teams played tough, with plenty of hard slide tackles, extra pushing and Cox drawing two yellow cards.
Battlefield goal keeper Taylor Kerxton, a Wake Forest recruit who hadn’t given up a goal since the first round of the region tournament, made a couple of nice saves. Junior forwards Colleen Gawkins, Bri Toelle and Arbus led an offense that made several deep runs and threatened throughout.
“I think we should have connected more from the midfield and gotten back to our game,” Arbus said.
But after playing solid defense all game against the Falcons, the Bobcats couldn’t contain an opposing pass and shot by Cox’s Brittany Krause, the Eastern Region Player of the Year, in the 67th minute. “It was a difficult ball,” Hilton said.
The Bobcats created plenty of opportunities but narrowly missed by a few feet on a handful of shots, including one in the 77th that flew just wide left of the goal. That was Battlefield’s best chance late in the game to tie the score.
Instead, next season will offer new hope.