By Marty Gordon
Nikki Greco is no stranger to the Radford High School soccer program, having served for the past three years an assistant coach and as a player several years ago. This season, she takes over the head whistle after the retirement of longtime mentor Darrell Gillispie. Previously, Greco also served as head coach at Virginia High near Bristol for four years.
Last season, the Lady Cats were 17-4, losing in the state semi-finals. The team also lost Gabby Perez, who had been a consistent player for the few years. But Greco is optimistic about this year’s squad.
“The girls have a great attitude this season. The mentality, focus and work ethic of the girls in practice has been awesome to observe so far,” she said.
Key players back this season include: Madison Page (2018 All-County/All-City co-player of the year), McKenzie Page, Rachel Tuosto and Taylor Hamblin. Page scored her 100th goal of her career last season.
Page called number 100 an amazing experience because it was something she had been striving for her whole high school career. She praised others for their support in reaching this plateau.
“If it was not for my coaches, family, and teammates I would not have reached this goal. They encouraged me to be better and work hard every game to accomplish this.”
Madison is joined on this year’s by her sister, Machenize, who was named to the Class 2 all-state team last season.
Greco expects James River to be a tough Three Rivers District opponent this season, but her sights are set a little higher.
“We want to win state,” she said. “We want redemption on Appomattox after losing to them in double overtime last year in the state semifinals. And of course, George Mason, who has won state the past 11 years, is always the team everyone is looking at.”
Greco’s roster includes five seniors, six juniors, four sophomores and six freshmen.
On the boys’ side of the field, second-year coach Mark Layne returns eight seniors to a team that finished 11-7 last season, losing in the region 2C quarterfinals.
“We just want to be competitive. It’s a long season, and if we can stay healthy and focus on going 1-0 at every opportunity, we’re going to be alright,” he said.
Graduation did take a lot of the Bobcats fire power in Michael Hill and Ateka Gichana. But the cubbard is definitely not bear with returners: Jacob Luckett, William Mitchell, Zane Rupe, Mark Reedy, Joe Kennedy and Thor Sproule.
Layne expects Giles and James River to be amongst the teams to beat.
“They are always well-coached, so I would expect them to be tough again. Glenvar was very young last year and could surprise some folks. I look for another tight race in the Three Rivers District,” he said.