CARY, N.C. – Whoever said (insert sport) is a game of inches knew exactly what he or she was talking about.
The Virginia Tech women’s soccer team, a collection of tough-minded, unselfish and, quite honestly, very good players who rewarded Tech fans with their passion and zest for their sport, nearly did something that no other Virginia Tech program outside of football has ever done – play for a national championship.
The Hokies, unfortunately, just came up a few inches short.
In its first appearance at the NCAA’s College Cup – soccer’s equivalent of the final four – Virginia Tech saw its season come to an end with a 3-2 loss to Florida State in a semifinal matchup played at WakeMed Soccer Park on Friday night.
Florida State’s game-winning goal wasn’t some rocket off the foot of All-American Dagny Brynjarsdottir. It wasn’t some beautifully executed header off the noggin of Marta Bakowska-Mathews.
It instead came off the foot of Jamia Fields with less than 10 minutes left to play, and Tech goalkeeper Dayle Colpitts was just inches away from recording a save for the Hokies. The ball nipped her fingers, glanced off the post, ricocheted off her back and rolled lazily across the line for an FSU goal.
Talk about the definition of Hokie heartbreak.
“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.”
Such things happen in sports, and Tech could have accepted that – except for what transpired in the final 60 seconds.
Jazmine Reeves, who became the program’s first All-American on Friday, nearly tied the game. Reeves, who had hit the post in the 67th minute, fired a shot that whizzed by FSU goalkeeper Kelsey Wys – and drilled the crossbar.
Reeves missed tying the game by inches. Fifty seconds later, the final horn sounded, both on the game and Reeves’ career.
“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.”
Yes, the Hokies would have needed to score in overtime or advance on penalty kicks. But twice rallying from one-goal deficits in the second half would have brought forth tremendous momentum. Could the grizzled Seminoles have tallied yet again? Possible, though unlikely.
Florida State, which has lost just once this season, moved on to the national championship game. The Seminoles again somehow beat the Hokies, moving to 14-0-1 all-time against Tech.
But they got away with one this time – only by inches.
“Sometimes in this game, you’ve got to have a little luck,” FSU coach Mark Krikorian admitted.
“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.”
The loss left Reeves and a few others in tears. This is the horrible thing about being a senior. You’re left wanting another opportunity and know it will never come.
The finality of it leaves you gasping.
“If you have any passion about what you’re doing, you’re going to be emotional about it,” Reeves said. “I was very upset.
“I don’t want to leave this program ever. It’s done so many great things for me, and I appreciate all the things that have happened to me throughout the years. I love the relationships I’ve built through the four years I’ve been here. I’m going to be upset about it."
For the Hokies, a glorious season ended. It was truly a season of firsts.
Tech won a school-record 19 games. The Hokies scored a school-record 56 goals. Reeves became the Hokies’ first All-ACC first-team choice and first All-American. The Hokies played in their second-ever ACC championship game, falling to FSU 1-0 in that one. 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.
Even better for the Hokies, they return the crux of their team heading into 2014. Three of the top four goal scorers return, and three of the four All-ACC choices return. A program that was picked to finish ninth in the ACC this past season should be a nice wager to return to Cary.
“I think we stand as one of the top four teams in the country right now,” Adair said. “We’ve earned it this season. It’s a testament to this team. A lot of people didn’t think we’d be here in the final four before the season started, so I’m proud of this team.
“We’re going to move forward. 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 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.”
Applause for Adair for boldly setting such lofty goals. Then again, maybe he should.The Hokies may be just inches away.
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