RADFORD – Senior Emma Ragone had already come close earlier in the year.
She and her Maggie Walker Governor’s School Girls Basketball team were one game away from competing for that coveted state title, but their journey this season came to a close at the hands of Greensville, 38-37, in the state semifinals.
But the senior from Goochland had one more team season to play – she and her girls soccer teammates were looking to go all the way.
They did more than that.
Not only did Maggie Walker Girls Soccer win the program’s first-ever state championship on Saturday, June 8, but it also ended George Mason’s consecutive run of state titles at 11 straight.
“It feels so good,” she said smiling after the victory. “It feels really, really great to win.”
Ragone played soccer throughout elementary school before competing on Goochland’s JV team. She then got accepted into Maggie Walker Governor’s School, tried out for the varsity girls soccer team and made it her freshman year.
“It was a different kind of caliber at Maggie Walker I feel like, with playing the bigger schools, so that kind of helped me, and getting the wins against smaller schools like Goochland,” said Ragone, who with her Dragons competed against a Bulldogs team that features her younger sister Gabby.
Emma played defensive center mid for most of the time, and in Saturday’s state final, she excelled at pushing the ball up the field and towards the opponent’s goal.
“I was pretty nervous at first,” she said, “but once the flow of the game kind of like settled and we got the first goal…I kind of calmed down a little bit.
“But towards the end, it’s always nerve-racking, and when all the fans start getting loud, it’s kind of a crazy experience,” she said smiling. “I was on the bench for a little bit and I couldn’t sit down.”
Ragone was part of a senior class of eight players that helped lead Maggie Walker to its banner girls soccer season in 2019. Most of the seniors had been with head coach Jim Thomas since he took the helm of the Dragons in 2016.
“Just to watch the camaraderie and how they supported each other…it was just incredible,” he said after the game.
In Saturday’s final, the decisive goal came in the first half when sophomore Mimi Kemp took possession down near the defensive end, raced it along the right sideline and passed the ball to teammate and junior Katie Smith, who footed it through from the right side to make it 1-0.
From there, Maggie Walker’s defense continued the lockdown play that collectively held all of their opponents to just one goal across both the region and state tournaments. The unit pooled together to fend off George Mason’s pressure on goal near the 26 mark of the second half, and then keeper Madelon Sabalewski, with a light jump, grabbed hold of a free kick that was launched up the middle with 12 minutes to play.
The Dragons stonewalled George Mason from there to secure the thrilling and historical 1-0 shutout.
The girls this year, Ragone said, were the best group of teammates she’s ever had.
“This group was really tight,” she said. “Everyone was friends with everyone. We worked hard together in practice.”