STAUNTON (WHSV) -- Riverheads boys soccer started practice at noon on Thursday for two reasons. The team wanted to catch the opening match of the World Cup and the Gladiators are trying to get used to playing in the early afternoon, with their state semifinal scheduled for one o'clock on Friday.
The Red Pride is coming off a loss in the 2A-East championship to George Mason. But Riverheads has dealt with losing before. After a defeat to Nelson County in the first game of the year, the Gladiators went on a 20-game winning streak.
"And I knew when we started playing well against Wilson, Stonewall, teams like that. Stonewall made it to the state final last year,” Riverheads senior Bruce LaMond said.
“I knew when we beat them for the second time, I felt, you know, this could be it. This could be our year.”
Now the program is making its first trip to the state semifinals since 2007. Making it this far wasn't a goal for the players a few years ago or even at the start of this season, now the Gladiators are two wins away from lifting the trophy.
"We're always trying to move the program forward. It's a long term goal to become a program that is a mainstay at the state tournament,” Riverheads head coach Mark Husband said.
“And hopefully this year is one step. We've got a chance to become the most accomplished team in Riverheads history and we're going to continue to work hard to do that."
Riverheads has a tough challenge in the semifinals, facing a Martinsville squad that has shut out 15 of its opponents this season. Should the Gladiators move on, it could potentially face George Mason once again on Saturday.
The semifinals are at Salem high school while the championship will be held at Radford University.