By Ryan McCafferty
The weather was cloudy and overcast on Thursday night at Meridian High as both Mustangs soccer teams hosted their regional quarterfinals matchups, and both came away with eventual victories. First up were the girls, who faced off against the Culpeper County Blue Devils and wasted no time establishing their advantage. Grace Calabrese scored about three minutes into the action and Maddie Miller doubled the lead to 2-0 shortly before the halftime break. The Mustangs refused to take their foot off the gas in the second frame, tacking on four more goals to win by a final score of 6-0 as Miller ended up securing a hat trick in the waning seconds. Calabrese also found the back of the net a second time, while goaltender Emma Najarian was immaculate in net as she stopped the few chances the opposition was able to generate.
About twenty minutes after the girls’ game concluded, the boys kicked off, and this one would prove to be a track meet of scoring. The home team got on the board first with a goal from Matthew Hellert about seven minutes in, but they were tied up almost immediately. The Mustangs dominated possession and had several great chances in the following minutes, but it took until late in the first half before they finally broke through again, this time on an AJ Smith tally.
This seemed to open the floodgates as three more goals were scored in the half’s closing minutes, two by the home team including a second from Hellert while Alex Gardner also found the back of the net. The lead would quickly grow after the break, as a header from Tai Bhalia and a breakaway goal from Smith made it 6-2 only a few minutes into the second half, and by this point the rout was on.
Yasin Shams converted on a penalty kick and Smith completed his hat trick, and the rest was only a matter of waiting for the clock to hit zeroes. Ben Atkeson tacked on one final marker before the end, and when all was said and done, it was the Mustangs coming away with the 9-2 victory.
Both teams’ regional semifinals opponents are set to occur on Tuesday at home, with opponents yet to be determined.