Richmond girls top Greenville for eighth straight regional championship

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RICHMOND — You may have heard this one before, the Richmond High School girls soccer team is heading to the state Class D title game.. The top-seeded Bobcats earned their eighth straight berth in the title game by blanking No. 2 Greenville 2- 0 Nov. 1 in the Class D South regional final.

“I still enjoy it. Each group is different and they want to make their own mark,” said Richmond coach Troy Kendrick. “It’s moments like these, seeing the girls happy that makes me want to come back each year. I tell the girls, there’s no place I’d rather be on a nice fall afternoon than out here on the soccer field.”

The home team gave its crowd something to cheer about. Unbeaten in their previous 10 games (8-0-2), the Bobcat defense tightened up on the Laker scorers, allowing just two shots on goal in the first half.

“Ever since our game against St. Dom’s (on Sept. 16), we’ve been making our diamond on defense a lot tighter,” said Emma Carbone. “Tight and compact, that’s what coach tells us all the time.”

The visitors may have gotten the first shot on goal by attacking early, but it was Richmond which picked up the pace midway through the opening half.

“We got off to a slow start today as I think the kids were a little nervous to start out with,” said Kendrick. “But after we settled in a little bit, the last 60 minutes, I really liked the way we played. We had a lot of possession, kept ball at feet. I thought we created a bunch of good chances.”

With a little under 17 minutes remaining in the half, Destiny Anair took a corner kick from the right side, planting it in front of the goal. Sophomore Abby Johnson re-directed the kick past a sprawling Halle Pelletier of Greenville for the score.

“I was a little scared at first. It came through, and I was expecting to have to head it,” said Johnson. “But it came right to my foot, and it was the perfect angle for me to try to rip it right to the corner. I just tried to put as hard of a shot on goal, not try to tap it.”

“It took us a while to get going,” said Anair. “Once we found our spots, we started passing and playing well together.”

Anair caused fits for the Lakers. Faking out defenders time and time again, the senior had many opportunities from the right side to put the ball in front of the goal for her teammates.

“We knew Greenville’s goalie was tall, so we wanted to get the ball a little further out so our shooters can get the ball up on her,” added Anair.

Richmond’s Sydney Underhill-Tilton didn’t see a whole lot of action in net. She stopped both first-half shots she faced, including a diving stop on a direct kick from 20-yards out with 11 minutes remaining.

Anair kept at it down to the final minutes of the half, getting a pair of right-footed lugs towards the net. Each missed the target by coming up short or over the net.

Richmond took the 1-0 lead into the half, outshooting the Lakers 7-4.

“I wanted us to come out in the second half not being satisfied with just one goal,” said Kendrick. “Our defense really tightened up. We didn’t allow a lot of penetration, we didn’t allow a lot of good looks at the net.

“Sometimes when you’re sitting on that one-goal lead, you want to just sit back and play defense. We can’t play defense for 40 minutes. The kids kept going. I liked our mental toughness in the second half.”

After working her way deep into Laker territory, Anair was able to cross a pass from the right side, where fellow classmate Emily Snowden gathered it in. Despite being marked by Laker defenders, the senior made a hard tap on the ball and is slipped past Pelletier for the game’s second goal.

“I saw three girls on me,” said Snowden. “I knew if I just put in the back of the net as hard as I could, it’d be worth it.

The two-goal lead seemed like a hundred the way the Bobcat defense continued to play. The defense of Carbone, Bryanne Lancaster, Marybeth Sloat and Lindsie Irish kept the Lakers from penetrating deep into Richmond territory.

With 7:30 remaining, Greenville pushed towards the box in its offensive zone. Not taking any chances, Underhill-Tilton came out of the net to secure the ball. When she didn’t field it cleanly, while laying on the ground, she quickly reached out for the ball before the Lakers’ Jessica Pomerleau could get a foot on it.

That was as close as the Lakers came to scoring in the second half. Richmond outshot the Lakers 5-0 in the final frame.

“I thought we kind of wore them out,” said Kendrick. “Our girls played hard to the final whistle.”

Kendrick is pleased to see his team running on all cylinders.

“We seem to be hitting our stride,” said Kendrick. “This is a good point to be playing our best.”

Greenville finished with season at 12-4-1. The regional berth was the first for the Laker girls since 2012.

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