By Mike DeFabo
Times West Virginian
With flowers, balloons, colorful signs and even a couple tears, the North Marion soccer team honored its upperclassmen with a Senior Night ceremony Tuesday night.
The girls’ soccer team, which played just before the festivities, decided to start the celebration early.
The Huskies scored two second-half goals to lead North Marion past Robert C. Byrd, 2-0.
“We wanted to play for our seniors, and that’s just what we did,” North Marion coach Steve Rodriguez said. “This game was dedicated to them.”
Seniors Kate Doshier, Paige Efaw and Shelby Kings were the focal point of the post-game celebration. But during the 80-minute contest, it was the junior class that stepped up to send the seniors our right.
Madison Haught and Cassady Rodriguez scored a goal each to propel the Huskies to victory.
“We’ve got a heck of a junior class here,” Steve Rodriguez said. “They’re really strong players. And they continuously work hard.”
As Steve Rodriguez said, the Huskies were working hard in the opening 40 minutes, but it wasn’t paying off. Despite controlling the momentum and delivering several strong scoring chances, the Huskies couldn’t get one past the keeper.
Then in the second half, Steve Rodriguez moved his forwards to wings and his midfielders to forwards. It produced immediate results.
Just a minute into the second half, Haught weaved through three defenders and dished the ball to Cassady Rodriguez. Her touch with the left foot was enough to steer the ball just past the keeper and into the right corner of the net.
About 10 minutes later, Haught got a goal of her own when she booted Skylah Haught’s corner kick into the upper part of the net.
“We changed up a little bit, and it helped us out big time,” Steve Rodriguez said. “It changed the whole game. I told the girls I want to score right away. I want to go out and go as fast as we can.”
The Eagles’ best chance to get on the board came in the 26th minute, but goalkeeper Shasta Pyles made a diving stop to preserve the shutout.
“We need these games,” Steve Rodriguez said. “I’m proud of what our girls accomplished.”
Though the boys fell 7-3 in the second game, the seniors stepped up and put on one of the best performances of the season.
All three of North Marion’s goals came from seniors.
“I told them going into the game this is what you dream about when you’re a freshman,” North Marion coach Matt Gilpin said. “This is what gives you goosebumps. I kept reminding them, this is your night.”
Cody Bland and Dylan Leary proved it by knocking home the first two goals of the game.
But after a red card just three minutes into the game, the Huskies were forced to play with just 10 men for nearly the entire contest, and Robert C. Byrd rattled off four straight goals.
Senior Andrew Fetty cut the lead to a single goal, but the Eagles responded with three straight against the short-handed Huskies to put the game away.
“Fatigue just set in,” Gilpin said. “They just started running on us and it was one after the other.”
Despite the final score, Gilpin was proud of his team’s performance, especially on senior night.
“That was by far the best game we’ve played all season,” he said.
Email Mike DeFabo at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow on Twitter @MikeDeFaboTWV.