The blustery, windswept, frigidly cold Leesburg night April 7 couldn’t dampen the heat of competition as the Tuscarora Huskies went toe-to-toe and back-and-forth with in-town rival Loudoun County in a varsity girls’ soccer match.
In the 67th minute, County forward Allyson Brown sized up a lead pass from midfielder Caroline Ponticelli and slugged a line shot into the top shelf of Tuscarora’s net for a 3-2 lead that held till the end for the reigning Virginia 4A state champion Raiders.
Brown, who will play for Virginia Tech next fall, leads County with 10 goals.
The Raiders entered their 10-day Spring Break layoff with an unblemished 7-0 mark, though the bout versus the Huskies was County’s first one-goal win in its last five outings.
“We just kept trying to work it up, instead of playing kickball with them,” County head coach Kirk Smith said. “A lot of times we push it with our outside mids, but we didn’t push it so hard and stayed behind the ball.”
The loss dropped Tuscarora – Virginia 5A state finalist a year ago – to 4-4, yet the Huskies’ tenacity in coming back to tie the Raiders on two separate occasions proved encouraging to head coach Nicole Brower.
“We like to play County every year because it’s going to be a good game on both sides,” Brower said. “Our sophomore keeper really stepped up with some great saves. She kept us in the game.”
Tuscarora keeper Lara Bates, who finished with seven saves, made her presence known early and often.
The sophomore leapt to catch a long bomb of a shot that would have socked the back of the net for a quick 1-0 Raider lead. Later, in the 24th minute, she jumped to deflect a ball on frame, knocking it harmlessly off the crossbar.
The Huskies’ first scoring chance came in the 33rd minute when senior midfielder Ally Collins rolled a shot just wide of the left post.
The Raiders finally solved the Husky defense in the late stages of the first half when Brown delivered a cross-crease pass to senior Emily Mothersbaugh for a drilled shot into an open half of net.
But the Huskies came right back, nearly tying it on Madison Sheehan’s rush for a left-footer just wide, and really tying it in first-half extra-time on Morgan Biebighauser’s tally from Dacheka Kolcum’s crossing feed.
Bates rose up again in the fourth minute of the second half, jumping up and to her right to knock away a sizzling close-up shot on frame. Two minutes later, she raced out to challenge an oncoming rusher, sliding to stuff the shot back.
Meanwhile, County successfully withstood a pair of Husky rushes up the field, keeping matters knotted 1-1.
The Raiders went up 2-1 on Allison Maliska’s long left-footer into the wind during the 58th minute, sailing too tall even for Bates’ verticality.
But one minute later, Tuscarora earned a penalty kick after being tripped deep in County territory. Anna Felber drilled home the equalizer, tricking in off the fingertips of Raider keeper Kalie Ward.
That set the stage for Brown’s late game-winner, though the Huskies weren’t done showing off their resiliency. Going one-on-one in front of her own net, Ward came up with two saves against Kolcum to preserve the lead and keep the win.
-Editor’s note: Story has been updated to correct spelling of Tuscarora junior Anna Felber.
-Photos by Rick Wasser