LINDSIDE - It took a very long time, but the Princeton Tigers' girls soccer team finally claimed the Region III, Section 3 championship on Thursday night with a 3-2 win at James Monroe.
One-hundred-ten minutes and four overtimes later, Alex Smith slammed the ball in from 40 yards away, leading the Tigers to the Region III semifinals on Tuesday against Woodrow Wilson. The game will be played at Bluefield's East River Soccer Complex starting at 5:30 p.m.
Princeton (9-10-3) had advanced to the sectional finals by defeating Bluefield 2-0 earlier in the week.
"Once the Bluefield game ended we told the girls repeatedly, ‘You will win this game, but you must believe that you will,'” Princeton girls coach Rick Ball said. “We repeated it to them in practice, and all through the game and asked them to repeat it back to us before every overtime period, ‘Do you still believe we are going to win this game?' They did and they did.”
James Monroe had been ranked among the state's best teams all season, and quickly took a 1-0 lead on a Melissa Thomas goal with 10:15 left in the first half. Smith then knotted the score at 1-1 with a direct kick from 22 yards away.
Kayla Bales put the Tigers up 2-1 four minutes into the second half, and the Mavericks tied it on a Beth Hoke goal to send the game into overtime. Several overtimes.
"It was a typical Princeton-James Monroe soccer game, hard fought, closely contested and brutally physical,” Ball said. “I venture to say that (Princeton football) coach (Ted) Spadaro would've been impressed with the toughness of the Lady Tigers."
In the fourth overtime, Princeton's Alex Smith was able to bring the deadlock to an end, as she was able to score to end the game. Princeton out-shot the Mavericks 17-6 in the match.
“We are so proud of our girls. Our defense was stellar tonight, they held James Monroe to only six shots,” Ball said. “Our midfielders were the key to our ball possession. They dictated play throughout the match.”