Covenant boys soccer was fighting. But when you’re down two goals with just 20 minutes to play in a state tournament game, the mountain is steep.
“I told them at halftime that at the end I was going to look them in the eye and ask if they gave me everything they had and I told them afterwards I was proud,” said Covenant coach Bryan Verbrugge. “It was just a day where we didn’t put together 80 minutes and at this point in the season, it’s really hard to spot a goal or two to a state level team.”
No. 4 seed Covenant couldn’t find the equalizer to extend their season, falling 2-1 to No. 5 Norfolk Collegiate in the VISAA D2 quarterfinals.
The Eagles got a goal from senior Karsten Graham with 19 minutes left to play, a quick counter to the goal that put Norfolk Collegiate up two. Despite several near-miss attempts including a rainbow from the left sideline by Henry Monroe, the Eagles couldn’t find the back of the net in the final minutes.
It put a wrap on an impressive journey where a program that won the last state title that was contested back in 2019 had to retool almost completely after not playing last fall. They showed marked improvement during the year, reversing an early season 1-0 loss to Blue Ridge to a 3-0 victory in the VIC semifinals against the Barons a month later.
“We started the season with a question mark because we had very little game experience on the team and they just kept getting better and better,” Verbrugge said. “I’m really proud of the development over the course of the season.”
In the meantime junior standouts like defender Braeden Weiss, Connor Doran, Darrius Tyler, Cole Sidders, Diego Dominguez and Monroe have emerged. While the Eagles will miss Graham’s scoring punch, Doran, Tyler and Dominguez should give the Eagles three double digit goal scorers when they return to action next fall. Meanwhile, Weiss and junior keeper Nathan Klintworth will be critical building blocks in the back.
“From a question mark, to top four in the state?,” Verbrugge said. “I’m proud of the way things finished up.”