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By Shaun Broy - firstname.lastname@example.org
WOODSTOCK -- The team that wins usually makes more opportunities actually happen than they might find given to them along the way, and then takes full advantage of those opportunities en route to victory.
In Thursday's Shenandoah District girls soccer tournament championship, that team was Riverheads. It was the second-seeded Gladiators who made the most of their opportunities, outshooting the Falcons 13-5 and putting three in the net before the top-seeded Falcons could respond in an eventual 3-1 win for the Gladiators.
"They did a great job tonight and did everything that I asked them to do from the very start," Riverheads coach Jo-El Nelson said. "That's the way you gotta take it to Central; if not, they will come back to bite you. We took advantage of the opportunities we had and were able to finish."
The teams went into halftime scoreless, but the Gladiators seemed to be just a step or two ahead of the Falcons during most of the first half. They were winning the ball in the air, and beating their opponents to the ball on the ground.
In the 45th minute, Riverheads junior Hailey Cowles sent a high arching corner kick directly on target to the near post, where senior Jill Jackson met the ball before it hit the ground in front of her and nailed it into the back of the net for the first goal of the night.
The second goal for Riverheads came in the 52nd minute, when senior Kayla Folsom connected with Jackson, who once again hit the back of the net with a strike from about 10 yards out from the goal.
Then, in the 71st minute of play, Gladiators senior Kristen Lambert put the game pretty much out of reach for the Falcons as she tucked her shot inside the goal to make the score 3-0.
Central (12-2-2 Overall) seemed to play its best soccer during the last 10 minutes of the game, as the Falcons aggressively attacked the net and created more opportunities to score. And score they did when newly crowned Shenandoah District Player of the Year Katie Philpott tapped the ball in the net off a corner kick in the 74th minute.
The Falcons made a few more threatening runs towards to goal in the final minutes, but their opportunities were too few and too late to make a serious run at the tournament championship.
By virtue of their regular-season district championship, Central still maintains the district's top seed as they play host to Madison County in the first round of the Region B Tournament on Monday at 5:30 p.m. Riverheads also has reserved a spot in the regional tournament and will travel to play Appomattox on Monday.
Central coach Hap Kwiatkowski, who was named Shenandoah District Coach of the Year, reflected on the game and the road ahead for the Falcons.
"Our finishing just wasn't there," Kwiatkowski said. "If we played the first 70 minutes like we did the last 10 minutes, we could have had a shot. I don't want to say that I am glad for the loss, but it'll make them work just a little bit harder going into regionals. They'll be ready for Madison County."
Added Philpott: "We've had a really fantastic season so far. We've grown so much since the beginning of the season and you can see it. It's been a good year. I think that tonight's loss was a good wake-up call and will prepare us better to take on Madison County.
"We want to go to states, but we've got to focus on Madison to start."
Stonewall Jackson 4, Buffalo Gap 2
WOODSTOCK -- The thermometer read just over 90 degrees on Falcon Field at Central High School when Stonewall Jackson took to the pitch against the Buffalo Gap Bison in the Shenandoah District Tournament girls consolation game.
The winner would secure the third and final birth from the district into next week's Region B Tournament.
After going down by a quick goal, the Generals kicked it into high gear by scoring four unanswered goals and pulled out a 4-2 victory over the Bison.
Trailing 1-0, the Generals were quick to strike back as they wasted little time getting a goal of their own from junior Taylor Koontz, who tapped the equalizer into the net in the fourth minute of play.
It was Koontz again who took a shot at the goal in the 26th minute from about 10 yards out. It popped off the side of a Bison defender and deflected into the goal, putting Stonewall up by a score of 2-1 at the half.
Koontz struck again with another goal less than three minutes into the second half.
The Generals put their fourth goal on the board with a strike from Hope Madaris in the 54th minute of play to give Stonewall a 4-1 cushion.
The Generals finished the game with an 11-10 shot advantage over the Bison.
The Generals will travel to play Bull Run District champion George Mason on Monday at 5 p.m. in the first round of the Region B tournament.
"We have a lot to still work on," Stonewall Coach Chris Livesay said. "We've got some timing issues to address. We are still just putting too much on the ball and focusing on power. We need to worry more about our touch and accuracy if we are going to have a chance to win."