By Jerry Holsworth - firstname.lastname@example.org
WOODSTOCK -- The word both teams used for Tuesday's girls soccer match between Central and Stonewall Jackson was intense, and that certainly described it well.
The Generals were able to take advantage of a congested goal area for the only score of the game and defeat the host Falcons, 1-0.
"We were all working hard out there," Central goalkeeper Miranda Morris said. "We just had one tiny mistake, and it cost us. It was very intense out there."
Both Morris and her counterpart, Stonewall goalkeeper Rhea Jett, took on a determined effort by both teams and came through on almost every occasion.
"Both goalkeepers did a terrific job," Falcons coach Duff Rice said. "Rhea really showed that she can play. Miranda has been playing that way for her entire career and against Group AA competition."
Morris had eight saves for the night, most of them tough ones against a speedy Stonewall offense that used the long ball to create scoring opportunities. The Generals actually had two goals called back in the first half on offsides calls.
"This was just an incredible game," Stonewall coach Chris Livesay said. "We had offsides calls that cost us a couple of goals, but we expected that. We were playing the long ball and that's going to happen at times when you do that."
Central's defense was very aware of the Generals' strategy, and used it against them whenever they could.
"We really had to work hard tonight," Falcons sweeper Sarah Whelan said. "It was really intense. We knew what they were trying to do. I was pushing our defense up, and it worked to get several offsides calls against them."
The game was also one of momentum, and it changed frequently. Central took the first three shots of the game in the first four minutes of play, then didn't have another shot until 12 minutes left in the first half.
In between, Generals forward Taylor Koontz used her speed to drive the ball down the right wing for several good scoring opportunities. Morris and the Falcons' defense, however, were able to fight them off.
Stonewall had 11 shots in the first half to Central's eight, but neither side was able to get past the other's goalkeeper. Jett recorded seven first-half saves and finished the night with 11.
With 24 minutes left in the game, Stonewall right wing Vanessa Cardoso launched a cross that somehow slipped past Morris and the Falcons' defense for the only goal of the game.
"I just crossed it in and hoped that someone would head it in," Cardoso said. "I was trying to follow it up and it just went in. I really don't know what happened."
After the Generals' goal, Central pressed hard for the equalizer, but the Stonewall defense was equal to the occasion.
"I'm really winded," Generals sweeper Michaela Koontz said. "Rhea and I work together well because we've played together for a long time. She and I know what the other is going to do. But that didn't make things any easier. They were really fast and hard to defend."
Each team's offense had its opportunities. Central had 13 shots for the game and Jett had to save all but two of them. Morris' task wasn't any easier. The Generals had 18 shots for the night, and the Falcons senior had eight saves for the game.
"I know there were some people that thought this was going to be a five-goal game," Livesay said. "But I knew better than that. These two teams are so evenly matched, and both goalkeepers are really good. I was sure that this was going to be very close, and probably be decided by just one goal."
The closeness of the loss, and the intensity of the game was deeply disappointing to the Falcons.
"We just can't seem to have any luck this year," Rice said. "We're lost three one-goal games so far. Things just haven't gone our way at all."