There's nothing like a shot of confidence as the postseason looms.That's exactly what Princeton received Saturday afternoon when Shaylah Walls scored an unassisted goal early and the Tigers made it stand up for a 2-0 victory over George Washington in the championship game of the Mountain State Athletic Conference.A crowd of about 150 attended the matchup of Class AAA state-ranked teams at Andrew Jordon Field at the Trace Fork Soccer Complex."It's just a huge win for us,'' said Princeton coach Michelle Dye, whose team won its first conference title in girls soccer. "We're usually the underdogs. We're ecstatic. For us to be able to compete with George Washington . . . that usually doesn't happen.''Walls took a pass, then dribbled down the right side of the penalty box and uncorked a shot past Patriots backup senior keeper Catherine Geis that gave Princeton the lead for good at 1-0 a little more than five minutes into the first half.The Tigers (14-1), who were sixth in this week's state coaches association rankings, sealed the victory when the ball inadvertently hit off a GW player in front of the Patriots' goal and went in for an own goal and a 2-0 advantage with 11:06 left in the game. Tigers junior keeper Meredith Putorek made five saves, including several athletic stops.The Princeton players on the sideline counted down the last 10 seconds, then rushed onto the field to join in the celebration with the starters, who were jumping up and down hugging one another."I think this has pumped [our players] up,'' said Dye, whose team won its 10th straight and hasn't lost since Aug. 30. "They were so nervous we were never able to get into our game. They played with a lot of tension. The girls know they can play at that level. They'll be able to breathe next time.''
No. 4 GW (11-3-1) played without several starters and key backups because of injuries and suspensions, but still had plenty of chances.Patriots sophomore Sarah Wilson just poked the ball wide right after streaking in front of the net in the opening half, and junior Taylor Ellis shot the ball just over the cross bar. In the second half, GW sophomore Gracie Switzer was just wide right on a shot attempt. Geis, a senior whose last regular stint as goalie was two years ago, made four saves to keep the Patriots close."It's tough,'' said GW first-year coach Derek Ragle. "I'm not making excuses. We had the players on the field that were able to win that game and we didn't do it."We've got to hustle more and we've got to be more competitive. Princeton earned this win. Princeton played a heck of a game. We had some chances and we just didn't finish and we gave up chances, and they did.''The week started promising for GW, but ended on a sour note. The Patriots handed No. 2 Hurricane its first loss Tuesday, then followed it up with losses to No. 5 Winfield and Princeton."We didn't build on our momentum,'' Ragle said. "It may be good. I don't like moral victories and I don't like to lose, but this may make them more hungry when we get into sectionals.''Reach Tommy R. Atkinson at email@example.com
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