Johnny Russell ’22
The Woodberry community briefly returned to a state of normalcy Saturday afternoon when after an 11-month hiatus, the soccer team opened up their 2020 campaign at home with a doubleheader against Blue Ridge School and Virginia Episcopal School. The Tigers’ eagerness to get back out on the field showed as they won both games in dominant fashion, beating VES 5-0 and Blue Ridge 3-0.
In what could have possibly been his two final home matches as a Tiger, senior captain and striker Meade Seay ’21 put on a show, scoring four goals in the first match against Virginia Episcopal. The Tigers came out hot, winning 50/50 balls and keeping possession. Their aggressiveness offensively paid off when in the 7th minute Jake Benslimane ’22 played a ball behind the VES backline into Seay, who calmly slotted it into the bottom-right corner of the net. Even after finding a comfortable rhythm early, the Tigers were still hungry. A brilliant free-kick by the skipper Seay from just outside the left edge of the box had the VES keeper scrambling. He dropped the ball, and it trickled into the net to give the Tigers an early 2-0 lead. Just a few minutes later in a play identical to the first goal, Benslimane slotted it through to Seay, who once again found the bottom-right corner to give the Tigers a commanding 3-0 lead inside the first 25 minutes. To finish out the half, the Tigers’ stellar defensive performance continued as senior captains Ben Mills ’21 and Charlie Ferrari ’21 were brick walls in the center of the defense, not allowing a single Bishop to pass through. In the second half, the tigers kept attacking with force. Seay scored his fourth goal of the game within 5 minutes of the restart as his cross had the keeper stumbling. He dropped the ball once again. Seay’s cross (turned into a shot) made the score 4-0 through just 45 minutes of play. Although finishing games was a big issue for the Tigers last season, this was not an issue Saturday afternoon. Max Zhai ’22 finished off a delightful performance from the boys when he followed up a shot after a great save from the VES keeper. With Seay having 4 goals and Benslimane three assists, the Woodberry attack had a fabulous return back to the field.
With just a 25-minute break between games, the tigers hustled back onto the field for their second game of the doubleheader. This time the Tigers faced off against the Barons of Blue Ridge, who had also defeated VES, earning a hard-fought 1-0 victory. For most of the first half, the game was pretty even with both teams playing physical. What gave the Tigers the advantage in the first half was their dominance in the mid-field as Benslimane, Aidan McManamey ’22, and Johnny Russell ‘22 controlled the pace of play. The Tigers opened the scoring with 10 minutes left in the half when Benslimane capped off a Woodberry counter-attack by unleashing a deadly left-footed strike from 20 yards out. In the second half, all of the conditioning put in by the Tigers this summer paid off as they got the separation needed for the win. Left-back and senior captain Tommy Handelsman ’21 finished an excellent run into the box with a powerful strike into the bottom-left corner. With about 15 minutes left, sophomore John Shottes ’23 scored his first-ever goal for the Tigers when his aggressive style of play helped him turn a squabble in the box into a 3-0 lead. Other newcomers such as Nick Reynolds ’22, Robbie Handelsman ’23, Samuel Crosby ’22, and Charles Innes ’22 sealed the victory with dominant performances. In his first two starts between the sticks, goalkeeper Miles Miller’21 earned two clean sheets. With lots to be proud of but also to improve on, the Tigers travel to Lynchburg next weekend to take on both teams in the second of three double-headers.