Ashburn, Va. (May 18, 2016) — The tournament semifinals. The game you must win to play in the big game. The test before the title.
We got an eyeful of Conference 14 tournament semifinal action May 18 at Broad Run High School in Ashburn, getting a good look at the Spartans taking on conference foes Briar Woods (in girls’ soccer) and Tuscarora (in boys’ soccer and softball).
The higher-seeded home team was victorious on the softball diamond and the boys’ soccer pitch, though the lower-seeded Falcons emerged on top in the girls’ match.
Boys’ soccer: Broad Run 5, Tuscarora 2
Two scores by Wilder James, combined with Junior Mensah‘s perfectly executed throw-in to the near post where Nicholas Taylor lept up and headed in the match-winning goal, propelled the Spartans to the semifinal victory against a game Husky pack.
“We worked on that yesterday,” said Broad Run head coach Jon Hicks of the successful set piece. “Great to see it paying off.”
In the ninth minute, Mensah scored the game’s first goal from inside the Huskies’ trafficky box. Seven minutes later, Nolan Poretz played it ahead to James in stride for the charging net-finder.
“He was kind of our missing piece when he was injured,” said Hicks of Poretz, a senior midfielder. “He’s back and pulling the strings for us, dictating our play.”
Tuscarora came back with the next two. Dennis Trujillo looped in a 20-yard free kick in the 23rd minute; nine minutes later, Kevin Kostka got loose in front of an open net. Those became the only blemishes against Broad Run senior keeper Jaleel Robinson, a future college-level wide receiver trying his hand at soccer for the first time.
“Coach told me they would teach me a couple things,” said Robinson, recalling when he was approached by Hicks to man the keeper post. “I tried it out and I liked it a lot. It’s going pretty good.”
James, a soccer player since age 4, said his new teammate has comported himself well in the new challenege.
“Between field players and goalies, he’s probably the most improved player I’ve seen over two months,” the senior forward said. “The first day I didn’t even know if he could play goalie, and now we have full trust in him to be our goalie in the back.”
The Spartans took the lead when Mensah connected with Taylor, then extended it when James pounded in a fortuitous rebound. Sophomore José Trejo juked, jived, shimmied and danced as he worked around two defenders, clearing space for a crowd-pleasing finishing touch in stoppage time.
Hicks was as pleased with his defense’s second-half prowess – keeping the ball away from Tuscarora’s ultrafast Noah Mazzatenta – as he was with his offense’s second-half punch.
“We cleaned up a lot. Jaleel had a great second half,” Hicks said. “We were able to minimize [Mazzatenta’s] chances and capitalize on our own. For us to score five goals against their great defense is extremely impressive.”
Girls’ soccer: Briar Woods 3, Broad Run 1
I suppose you could call it an upset when the third seed upendeds the second seed, but when Briar Woods answered Broad Run’s second-half tying tally with two goals in 10 minutes, the only thing it upset was the Spartans’ shot at another title.
“Both teams played well, but our girls just dug deep,” said Briar Woods head coach Jeff Fragala, complimenting his side’s tenacity. “We didn’t make any adjustments, just stuck with what we do best.”
The Falcons’ Annie Sorando put it in within the contest’s first 10 minutes, assisted by Alyson Broecker for the first half’s only score. Broad Run knotted things six minutes into the second half when Emma Kerns booted it in.
Spartan goalkeeper Miranda Walker turned in a pair of diving saves to keep it 1-1, but she couldn’t keep out all of Briar Woods’ traffic as Broecker poked it in from Keagan Bragg‘s assist in the 55th minute. They scored again nine minutes later when Catie Bryant found the back of the net off McKayla Beal‘s assist, solidifying the victory for Falcon keeper Olivia Jones, who made five saves.
Softball: Broad Run 6, Tuscarora 1
The long home run sophomore Lauren Mizelle blasted to the right of straightaway center, leading off the third inning, turned out to be the perfect pick-me-up for her Broad Run teammates.
“That seemed to get the girls juiced up. We started hitting the ball pretty hard that inning,” Broad Run head coach Ed Steele said.
The Spartans proceeded to tack on three more runs on RBI singles by Lauren Enstrom and Libby Griffis and a long double to deep right by Alexandra Bencic. The 4-1 cushion was all Meghan McCormack needed to complete the win, as the senior hurler permitted herself a little dance to “We Got the Beat” during the following inning’s warmups.
“She pitches to contact, and our defense is so good around her,” Stelle said. “When that ball’s up in the air, we usually run it down.”
The Huskies prevented more damage with a couple stellar defensive plays of their own. Senior right fielder Emily Ford made a highlight-worthy diving snag of a looping fly ball down the line, ending the fourth. In the fifth, pitcher Rosie Hackman flagged down a wicked hot shot sizzling back through the circle, likely saving two runs.
But McCormack consistently worked around hits, stranding Hukies on base in every inning but the second. Only a first-inning bases-loaded walk pushed a Husky across.
In the home half of the first, McKenna Gallagher smashed a two-out RBI double to the right field fence, sending Grace Mattimore around from first for the Spartans’ initial run.
Steele feels like his current squad has been coming for a while.
“We had a really young team last year,” said the Spartans’ head softball coach since 1994. “This year they’ve matured, and people have been stepping up.”
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