Great teams find ways to win even when they are not necessarily at the top of their game. That was the case for the Broad Run High girls’ soccer team on the evening of Thursday, May 21 when, in the Dulles District tournament finals, the Spartans scored two goals over the final 18 minutes of play to defeat Heritage, 2-0. The championship game was played in gorgeous spring sunshine at Heritage High School in Leesburg.
The Spartans’ breakthrough second half scores came from sophomore midfielder Whitney Church and senior forward Val Powell. Earning the shutout in the net for Broad Run was senior goalie Caitlin Hunter.
"When it takes us forever to score, it becomes a battle and we tend to panic," said Spartans’ head coach Claire Collins, who thought her team looked a little tired at times against the Pride. "[Still] I thought we played well and Heritage played well. Fatigue hurt us."
Broad Run, still unbeaten this season at 17-0-1, was set to host a first round Region II playoff game earlier this week.
The Spartans, who were the top seed at the eight-team district tournament, are putting together a season similar to last year when they went a perfect 24-0 and captured the district, region and state AA titles. Broad Run is now looking to become the first girls’ soccer program in state AA history to win back-to-back state titles.
"That’s what they’re trying to accomplish," said Collins, of a squad that lost just two seniors to graduation – Carina Chavez and Kelly Smith -from last year’s team. "They’re so driven."
But Collins and her team members realize fulfilling the dream of successfully defending last year’s state crown will not be easy. All season long, teams have been especially driven to defeat the Spartans because they are the defending champions. When teams play Broad Run, they see a chance to have their seasons made.
"It feels great," said midfielder Church, of the 2009 team’s unbeaten mark. "It is more satisfying because more [teams] are gunning for you."
<b>BROAD RUN</b>, which reached the district finals against No. 2-seed Heritage by defeating Loudoun County, 2-1, in a semifinals home game on May 19, had a couple decent scoring chances over the20first 20 minutes against the Pride. In one instance, Spartan senior defender Taylor Starr sent a sizzling, 20-yard shot onto the goal, only to see the attempt deflected over the crossbar by Heritage goalie Erika Deckard.
Another time, senior midfielder Holly King made a nice scoring attempt when she headed a ball on goal following a long throw-in by teammate Powell.
Later in the half, the Spartans again nearly broke the scoreless tie when, with 11 minutes, 30 seconds showing on the clock, senior forward Kelly Evans sent a sliding shot towards the goal area. The shot, however, was just high of its mark.
Both teams continued to play in a stalemate beyond the midway point of the second half before the Spartans finally saw their offensive prowess rewarded. A sizzling shot by King from 25 yards out was caught by the Heritage net-minder. But moments later, the Spartans were on another rush when Church got free with the ball off the right wing area. She did not waste time and, when the angle was right, scooted a crossing shot that found its way into the left side of the net for the game8 0s first goal with 17:45 remaining.
"I took my touch, got by the first [defender] and said to myself. `go,’" said Church, of the play. "I just wanted to put it in the frame [of the goal] at least, and if not get the rebound."
"I knew she was going to put home that score," said Collins.
A few minutes prior to the goal, Collins told Church, who had been playing her usual midfield position, to move up top in order to create more offensive pressure on Heritage. The move paid off.
"She’s a very talented player – calm, poised and intense," said Collins, of Church.
So finally, after 60-plus minutes of play, Broad Run had put itself in position to win with the score.
"We just had to keep pushing," said Church, whose team did not get frustrated but simply kept the pressure on the Pride defense over the course of the game.
Heritage, over the remainder of the game, made a few strong scoring attempts but could not cash in. Then, with just over two minutes remaining, Broad Run iced the victory when Powell, after receiving a pass from freshmen midfielder Erin Brady, scored on a rebound follow-up chance off the right side on a one-on-one with the goalie. Powell’s initial shot was blocked by Deckard, but she jumped on the rebound and put her second chance in. That made the score 2-0.
Moments later, the Spartans were celebrating their district title.
King, Broad Run’s talented midfielder, said keys to the Spartans’ success this season have been team continuity and playing relentless soccer.
"Its focus and team work," she said. "Coming out to play every game and having confidence. We have team chemistry. Even our freshmen have clicked with us. We all mix [as a team]."
With the district championship under its belt, Broad Run is hoping to continue a long, successful postseason run much like what it experienced last year.
"Yea, I think everybody probably thinks we have a chance to do it again," said Church, of the potential of winning another state title. "It’s game to game."
Said King, "Our goal is to get back to the state championship. We have a good team. But you can never predict the outcome."
Collins said her team is hungry to get another crack at states.
"They always want to win, of course," she said. "This group is very compe titive in everything. They haven’t lost sight of what we’re trying to do."
Following the district title win, the All-Dulles Team members were recognized during postgame ceremonies. For Broad Run, King was named District Player of the Year. She, along with teammates Powell, Church, Kelly Evans and Caitlin Hunter were First Team selections. Breanna Smith and Jenny Taylor earned Second Team honors. Coach Collins, meanwhile, was named District Coach of the Year.