The 2019 Jamestown boys soccer team will certainly go down as one of the best in program history, perhaps the best not to win a state championship.
The previously unbeaten Eagles’ run of 18 wins came to a halt Friday with a 4-2 loss to Charlottesville in a Class 4 state semifinal at Roanoke College’s Kerr Stadium. The Black Knights seized control of the game with a flurry of three goals in less than 19 minutes against a Jamestown defense that had allowed only seven for the season and as many as two only once.
That undid a promising start for the Eagles, who produced some good early chances with long passes into the box. Michael Meese converted one with a header from point-blank range, off of Bryce Stutt’s free kick from 25 yards, to give the Eagles a 1-0 lead after 9 minutes, 21 seconds.
“I thought we could do it from there,” Meese said after scoring his 52nd goal of the season and 103rd of a high school career with a season still to go. “We just had to stay strong and focused, but we failed to do that.”
Eagles coach Bobby O’Brien said, to his surprise, that the enormity of playing in a state semifinal for the first time might have weighed on his players – perhaps more so after staking the early lead. Whatever the reason, the patient buildup that characterized the Black Knights’ offense positioned them increasingly in front of the Jamestown goal.
Jamestown defenders Stutt, Sebastian Lodwick, Matt Luchs and Rylan Hoerning handled it well early, but miscommunication and ineffective clearances bedeviled them the rest of the half. Kyle Lehnert tied game at 1 in the 14th minute by scoring on a ball the Eagles failed to clear from the box on multiple attempts.
Charlottesville (15-1-1) took a 2-1 lead with 14:53 to play in the first half as Aidan Folger headed in a chip from Rachade Kongo. Ayat Mohamed slotted in Benhui Ryang’s cross seven minutes later, and the Black Knights took a 3-1 lead into halftime.
Black Knights goalkeeper Nathan Fisher blunted Jamestown comeback attempts twice in the second half by saving shots from Meese. Kondo’s goal with 13:16 remaining put Jamestown in a 4-1 hole.
Zay McGee’s goal with 6:26 to play cut the deficit to 4-2 and gave the Eagles a ray of hope. But when Ayden Howes’ shot, headed seemingly into goal a minute later, sliced outside of the right post, the Eagles were left with their memories and hopes.
“We worked our butts off and I’m proud of the boys,” Meese said.
Augie Cooper, who, like Meese, is a junior, said, “With the young guys we have, and the group of juniors, I think we can make it back to the same place and try to rewrite our wrongs.”
O’Brien agrees that most of this group could get another bite of the apple, much like some on the great Jamestown team of 2011 that fell short in overtime of the state semifinals.
“We return a great corps of young players, six or seven who played lots of minutes in an intense game today, and I hope that drive will propel them on,” he said. “After the 2011 team I thought should’ve won it lost, I didn’t think we would necessarily be back the next year, but we came back and won it.”