It took a while this season for the Potomac Falls High boys’ soccer team to get things rolling. But once the predominately young squad began clicking, it became a late season force.
The Panthers showed just how far they have come when they swept three games at the Dulles District postseason tournament, the final of those trio of victories coming in a 3-0 title match win over a talented Park View team on Friday, May 22 at Heritage High School in Leesburg.
Potomac Falls, which had beaten No. 5-seed Dominion, 2-1, and the tournament’s No. 1 seed team in Broad Run, 1-0, to reach the finals, is next scheduled to play on Monday, May 25 against visiting Orange County High (Jefferson District) in a first round Region II playoff game. The contest will take place 4 p.m. at Potomac Falls.
The Panthers, who were the No. 4-seed in the eight-team district tournament, might have been considered a surprise to others in their run to the district crown. But they themselves were expecting a stellar tourney outing, especially considering that the squad had won its final four regular season games going into the post season. This was a red-hot Potomac Falls team, and it continued to play at a torrid pace at districts.
"We got on a little roll before the tournament," said Potomac Falls head coach Dave Gryder, who was drenched with a celebratory bucket of water in the moments following his team’s win over Park View. "Our sophomores and juniors gained maturity during the year. At the beginning of the year, they were learning."
Potomac Falls junior midfielder Conor Shanosky, a First Team All-Dulles District selection this spring, said things began clicking for the Panthers down the season stretch.
"It took a while, but we found our rhythm and formula to win," said Shanosky. "We had a lot of players step up."
Potomac Falls (13-5-1 overall record), which has now won seven games in a row, has just three seniors on its roster — Dulles Player of the year Asa Fox, who scored two of his team’s goals in the championship game win; striker Michael Tobin, who tallied a score in the finals; and fellow striker Joe Baires.
<b>FOX, THE PANTHERS’</b> leading scorer this season, found the net in both the first half and the second half in the finals’ win over the Patriots. He opened the game’s scoring nearly 17 minutes into the contest when, with a Park View defender pressuring him, he found enough room to send a crossing shot into the left side of the net from 15 yards out. The goal, which came with 23 minutes, 20 seconds showing on the clock, gave Potomac Falls a 1-0 lead.
Moments earlier, Potomac Falls junior goalie Ryan Howard, who played a terrific game with several challenging saves off of Park View offensive rushes, reached high to catch a sizzling shot on the net. He then punted the ball out of danger and the Panthers went right down the field and got the goal by Fox.
The game’s next goal was also scored by Fox, with 22:40 remaining in the second half. On the scoring play, Fox received a forward pass off the left side, putting him in a one-on-one scenario with the Park View keeper. He positioned himself straight on the goal before scooting the ball past the goalie and into the net. The goal made the score 2-0 and put the Panthers in outstanding position going into the final stretch of the game.
"He’s done a great job all year," said Gryder, of midfielder Fox. "Tonight put a cap on why he was the player of the year."
<b>SHORTLY AFTER</b> Fox’s second score, the Panthers put the game away when Tobin, the senior striker, knocked the ball in from close range following a long throw-in from a teammate to make the score 3-0 with 16:04 left to play.
Park View, as it had done throughout the night, made strong runs at the Potomac Falls net and got off some nice shots over the remainder of the game, but the Patriots could not ever get the ball past Howard.
It was Potomac Falls’ first district tournament title since 2006, a year the Panthers went on to capture the state AA title.
Shanosky said it was no easy pursuit defeating Park View in the finals.
"Park View is one of the best teams in the state," he said. "They have great offense and move the ball well. We knew it would take a team effort."
During postgame ceremonies following the championship game, three team trophies were presented. One went to the Broad Run boys’ team, which captured this year’s regular season title. The second went to the district tournament runner-up Park View squad and the third went to tourney champion Potomac Falls.
Also, All-District players were recognized. From Park View, First Team selections KC Onyeador and Jose Miguel Herrera were honored. Both played outstanding in the finals against the Panthers. From Potomac Falls, First Team players Fox and Shanosky were honored. Jonathan Hicks of Broad Run was named Coach of the Year.