Riverside soccer’s surprise run ends with loss in state title game

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A soccer team with six losses doesn’t often reach the state championship game, yet Riverside did just that following an surprising run through the Virginia state playoffs.

But after an upset of Region C champion Clover Hill in the quarterfinals and a blowout win over Kecoughtan in the semifinals, the Rams’ surge came to a halt with a 2-0 loss to Cox in the Class 5 championship game Saturday in Ashburn.

“With the way our regular season played out, I’ve got to be honest with you, we definitely didn’t predict that our season would end in the championship game,” Riverside Coach Kieran Harris said. “I mean, you see how gutted these guys are, like it definitely stings, but on the other hand, we’re just happy and perhaps a bit lucky to be here, so it’s tough to be mad with the result.”

Because of injuries, Riverside (15-7) had a consistently changing lineup. But as the playoffs came into view the Rams started to get healthy.

With health came confidence and a sense of belief, which translated to wins as Riverside used its regular season adversity to band together for a special run.

“It’s kind of funny,” senior Alexander Thissell said. “People ask us all the time how we got here, and I try to think of something deep or fancy to say, but honestly we just started believing in one another and the wins started rolling in.”

After nearly doubling up its opponents (20-11) during the first five games of the postseason, the Rams were unable to reach the back of the net against a stingy Cox team that had allowed just five goals in the playoffs.

“I think that in some ways we were just out of gas today,” Harris said. “Felt like maybe we burned through our motivation tank when we scored six yesterday. We had a lot of good looks, but nothing went our way. That’s what makes this beautiful game so tough at times.”

For Cox (16-4-1), Robbie Morgan’s two goals ensured that the Falcons’ long drive home to Virginia Beach would be a festive one. Saturday’s title was the program’s first in 12 years.

“Whenever you have to travel a long distance like we did today, there’s always a worry that the kids will come out sluggish or not have their usual juice,” Cox Coach Eric Blackmore said. “But man, did they come play their hearts out today. That’s a great Riverside team over there that gave us everything they had, and our guys stood toe to toe with them. I couldn’t be more proud.”

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