By Mike DeFabo
Times West Virginian
The Fairmont Senior girls’ soccer team huddled together in the middle of the field with their index fingers extended and smiles stretching from ear to ear.
All at once the team shouted in unison, “Beckley Bound!”
Fairmont Senior has said repeatedly that its goal is to win the state title ever since falling just a goal short of the state championship last season. The emotional outburst after the Polar Bears’ 2-1 victory over Madonna in the Region I championship game screamed loud and clear that Fairmont Senior had taken the next step toward that goal.
“Getting second place last year, I still remember how that felt,” said senior Gabi Mascaro. “I don’t want to feel that again.”
While Mascaro and the rest of the seniors have used last season’s loss as fuel, it was the underclassmen who stepped up to punch the ticket to Beckley.
Sophomores Sofia Sansalone and Tressa Bonasso each scored in the game.
“Sophomore takeover,” Sansalone said, repeating a mantra that the underclassmen have invented to describe the explosion of young talent.
“This isn’t the first time (the sophomores stepped up),” Mascaro said. “When we played Robert C. Byrd, we won by about seven goals, and every goal was scored by a sophomore.”
After playing to a scoreless tie in the opening half, the Polar Bears would have taken a goal from any player, regardless of age.
In the locker room, Fairmont Senior coach Ryann Moore said she implored her team to crash the net and look for loose rebounds. She went so far as to threaten to take players out of the game if they didn’t follow shots.
“If we would have been crashing the net in the first half, I think it would have been three or four to nothing,” she said. “It was a wet ball and we shoot very hard. It was hard for the keeper to make a clean save.”
The Polar Bears listened to their coach’s orders.
Minutes into the second half, Mascaro fired a shot on net, but right at the Madonna goalkeeper. Sansalone was there for the rebound to put the Bears up 1-0.
“The coaches kept saying the goalie keeps dropping the ball. Somebody has to run onto it,” Sansalone said. “I ran onto it that time and it was right there in front of me and I put it in the back of the net.”
Bonasso scored a few minutes later to provide a two-goal cushion for the Bears.
“It was definitely a relief,” Bonasso said. “When I scored that goal, it boosted our confidence. It showed on the field.”
Madonna’s Christina Conforti scored late in the second half to breathe some life back into the Blue Dogs, as well as their fans.
The fans broke out into “Let’s go Blue Dogs” chants, which Fairmont Senior fans tried to drown out with their own “Let’s go Polar Bears” cheer.
Eventually, the clock wound down and so did the cheering. All that was left were the Fairmont Senior girls, in the middle of the field, announcing their spot at states.
The Polar Bears will face Sissonville next Friday.
“This was our plan from the beginning of the season,” Mascaro said. “We wanted to go to states. But it’s not over yet. We’ve got to win Friday then win Saturday and get a ring on our finger.”
Email Mike DeFabo at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @MikeDeFaboTWV.