CR girls head to soccer finals

SMYRNA — Jessie Prillaman grew up watching her older sisters play for state championships.

Now in her first year as a Caesar Rodney High athlete, Prillaman has her chance already.

The freshman had a goal and an assist to help lift the second-seeded Riders over Middletown High 2-1 in the semifinals of the DIAA Division I girls’ soccer tournament on Wednesday night, hosted at Smyrna High.

“I thought she was outstanding,” said CR coach Darrell Gravatt. “She gets better every single game. She’s only a freshman but she played like a senior tonight. She’s a tremendous player.”

The Riders (17-1) will meet top seed Padua Academy (17-0) in the championship game on Friday night. It will also be hosted by Smyrna and kick off a half-hour after the conclusion of the Division II title game.

This is the sixth trip to the finals for the Riders under Gravatt, five of them are against Padua. This is the third season in a row CR and Padua have squared off in the championship round.

Prillaman will join her older sisters Lexi Prillaman, now playing for Richmond University, and Haley Prillaman, a senior on this Caesar Rodney squad, as having competed in a girls’ soccer title game.

“They always tell me to work my hardest,” Jessie Prillaman said. “That’s what I did here and finished with success. They really influenced me.”

Prillaman gave the Riders the early lead in the 14th minute after a cross-field pass from defender Kimberly Glasser freed her up on the edge of the penalty area. Prillaman dribbled the ball closer to goal before her shot tucked the ball away in the far lower corner.

Caesar Rodney doubled its lead in the second half when Prillaman sprung Lynsy Gruwell on a breakaway. Gruwell was able to slot the ball into the net with 25 minutes left which turned out to be the game-winner.

“It feels amazing and we wouldn’t be there without every single person on our team whether they played or not,” Gruwell said. “Everyone’s support has been amazing. Everyone on this team is one family and it’s great.”

Middletown did make it a nervy final few minutes for the Riders when Rachel Finelli scored to make it a 2-1 game with 14 minutes remaining.

The Cavaliers had a handful of chances in the dying moments of the game, none better than a corner kick that slipped through the box, missing all of the outstretched legs before CR goalie Marianna Nuzzo was able to collect a weak header for the save.

It was the first defeat for Middletown who finished the season 14-1-2.

“They gave us a run for our money,” Gruwell said. “It feels great to beat a team that hasn’t lost yet.”

Caesar Rodney easily could have been up by more but Middletown goalie Taylor Wolf recorded two diving saves and the Riders also had a goal called off after they were ruled to have dribble past the end-line a few seconds earlier.

“It’s a credit to their team and their keeper,” Gravatt said about Middletown. “They are well-coached and well-organized, that’s why they were 14-0-2. But once again, our team got it done and we’re back in the state finals and it doesn’t get much better than that.”

Padua defeated Caesar Rodney earlier this season, 2-0, on April 5, the third game of the season for Caesar Rodney.

“Hopefully we learned that we can play with them,” Gravatt said. “We have a lot of new faces on the field from last year’s team, even though we do we’re back in the finals. Padua is a very strong team and we’ll just try to do our best. … Maybe this will be the one.”


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