By Jeremy Stafford - firstname.lastname@example.org
STEPHENS CITY -- With the way Sherando junior Krista DeCeault danced from touchline to touchline -- the soccer ball, as if secured by a string, never skipping more than a yard past her cleat -- it seemed preordained that DeCeault was to put on a dazzling display of game-winning heroics.
But DeCeault's labors were numerous. Too many for her to manage on her own.
She had few other choices, though.
Brittini Dennis, Lainie Weadon and Sadie Shirley all spent time up top for the Warriors, and every time DeCeault looked to slice them a through-ball, they were drenched in Kettle Run orange.
So DeCeault was simply left to spin farther down Sherando's green, echoing pitch.
She kept dancing, searching for a way out of danger, or into the goal.
It seemed like she put in too much effort, as did the rest of the Warriors, to come out with a 2-2 tie with Kettle Run on Friday. But considering the circumstances, it was a welcome finish to an arduous game.
"It was kind of frustrating, and I needed to let it not get to my head," DeCeault said. "It's really easy, after you do all those moves, to get it taken away -- it's easy to just give up.
"I don't think this was my best game, but mentally, I think this was the toughest game I've ever played, because I couldn't give up."
She couldn't afford to give up -- none of the Warriors could.
Not with their only goal of the game, heading into the final 10 minutes of regulation, coming off Dennis' penalty kick in the 38th minute. Not with Kettle Run (2-2-1) splashing two second-half scores inside of four minutes.
In those four minutes, Sherando (2-0-1) went from a team on a roll, to a team needing a run, and DeCeault had plenty of runs.
"I actually thought Krista was gonna get the second goal, maybe even the third one," Weadon said. "because she just goes and goes -- she's gonna win a game one day.
"She kept dribbling in and out of everybody, and I was waiting for it -- I caught myself watching at one point."
Which is why, when DeCeault finally found what she'd spent 73 minutes searching for -- an open Weadon at the top of the 18 -- Weadon was surprised that the ball trickled to her cleat.
Weadon spun around a crashing defender, bashed a shot into the goal's left side.
The goal sent the game into overtime, where DeCeault put on another 50-yard ballet.
She sent a scorcher off the Kettle Run crossbar. It was the best scoring opportunity the Warriors managed in the overtime.
Ruing the absconded win, yet grateful they avoided the loss, the Warriors called the tie a learning experience.
"We knew that we had to get on our marks really tight, so we tried not to let them turn at all," sophomore Morgan Sirbaugh said. "And we needed to work more on getting our clears up and out, instead of low and on the ground."
The two times the Sherando defense allowed a Kettle Run forward to turn on the ball, the Cougars returned the favor with goals.
But for the most part the Sherando defense was stout. Sirbaugh often stole the Cougars' possessions and gave them fits; and Shirley secured more than her share of 50-50 balls.
First-year keeper Briana Hudnall notched three saves, none more impressive than the liner she snagged in the 44th minute.
"It was a team effort," head coach Rob Kilmer said. "I'm very, very pleased with where we are as a unit, as a group and just as a team -- we're a stubborn group.
"I think we're a smart group."