The Loudoun County Raiders scored three second-half goals on their way to a 5-2 victory May 23 at home against the Rock Ridge Phoenix in the Conference 21-East girls’ soccer tournament championship game. The Raiders also placed first in the conference during the regular season.
Meeting for the third time this season, Loudoun County built leads of 3-0 and 5-1 to take a 2-0-1 lead versus Rock Ridge in the season series.
The Raiders are aiming to win a third consecutive Virginia 4A state championship this spring, and head coach Kirk Smith know just what will get them there.
“Making sure we’re passing the ball as a team, and that everyone who is on the field at the time is getting touches on the ball and communicating is key,” Smith said.
Fueled by excessive ball movement and communication, the Raiders have already found their strategy to get them back to the state tournament. In the conference final, that meant keeping the ball low and getting in as many shots as possible.
Loudoun County broke through in the fourth minute as sophomore Bry Lawlor found the back of the net off an assist by sophomore Taylor Kibble. Later in the half, senior Sabrina Gillis converted a a free kick from approximately 30-yards out to extend the Raider advantage to 2-0.
With skillful footwork and an apparent trust in each other on the field, Loudoun County was able to switch fields easily and keep control of the ball for a great deal of the contest. The Raiders moved as a unit, each of them looking to each other to find the open pass.
This was crucial during the second half, as Loudoun County received a quick goal from Kibble – assisted by senior Allyson Brown.
The Raiders kept their foot on the gas for the entirety of the game. After Rock Ridge broke the shutout, Loudoun County responded with two fiery goals from sophomore Brooke Jones, assisted by Allyson Brown, and Kibble, assisted by Gillis.
Rock Ridge, who defeated Park View and Heritage to advance to the championship game, continued to play hard. Sophomore Kayleigh Shackford tapped one in for the Phoenix’s second and final goal in the closing minutes.
Both teams advance to the 4A West Region tournament. Loudoun County will likely earn a first-round bye.
“Everyone [we] are going to be facing from here on out is going to be really good, Rock Ridge was a good team,” Smith said. “We’re going to rest, work on penalty kicks and shooting.”
Article appeared in the Loudoun Times Mirror here