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By Shaun Broy - firstname.lastname@example.org
WOODSTOCK -- The thermometer on the field read close to 95 degrees once Central and Madison County took the pitch on Monday afternoon for a Region B quarterfinal game.
The sweat had already begun to drip from the brows of the two teams as they took to the field to warm up. Central entered the tournament by virtue of winning the Shenandoah District regular season title. The Mountaineers had slipped into the eight-team tournament as the third-place team out of the powerful Bull Run District.
The talent out of the Bull Run District, which the Falcons happen be joining next season, was clearly on display as the Mountaineers handed the Falcons a 4-2 loss and ended Central's season.
It was Madison County (10-5-1) who struck just 13 minutes into the match when junior Leana Coates sent a crisp pass to the feet of Samantha Cubbage, who popped it into the goal for the first score of the night.
The Mountaineers stuck gold again when junior Lindsey Aldridge connected with sophomore Mary Margaret Gaylord in the 16th minute. Gaylord nailed the ball right towards Central goalkeeper Amanda Carmain, who got her hands on the ball, but couldn't hold on as it bounced out and behind her into the net.
In the 19th minute of play, the Mountaineers hit the back of the net once again when Cubbage netted her second goal of the night.
As time ticked away in the first half, the pressure was on Central (12-3-2) to get on the scoreboard before the half ended.
With their backs against the wall, it was Shenandoah District Player of the Year Katie Philpott who took the ball from near midfield and sprinted off towards the goal. The junior sent the ball sailing into the upper right corner of the net from about 10 yards out.
The Falcons had found themselves having to fight back from behind before this season and have grown accustomed to being called a second-half team. This Central team had one final attempt to make a comeback to save its season of many accomplishments.
It was Madison's Cubbage who knocked the ball out of Carmain's hands and tapped the ball past her and into the net in the 43rd minute of play to put the Mountaineers up even further, 4-1, and the game was slowly slipping out of Central's hands.
The Falcons weren't quite dead yet, and they dug in and kept fighting. It paid off on a corner kick in the 52nd minute of play. Philpott sent the corner kick to junior Theresa Barela, who successfully headed the ball into the net to draw within 4-2 of the Mountaineers with 32 minutes left in the match.
"I thought we fought really hard and we wanted it bad," Philpott said. "The were a just a fantastic team to go up against, with great possession and great passing."
That score ended up being the final goal of the game for either team, as the Falcons' season slowly ticked away.
"I thought we had chances, they got lucky there a time or two," Central coach Hap Kwiatkowski said. "I thought Madison County was going to be a little tougher than what we saw. I told the girls, looking to next year when we join their district, that we can hang with them."
The Mountaineers outshot the Falcons 14-6.
"The heat slowed both teams down a little bit, but we came prepared for it," Mountaineers coach Danny Crigler said.
The Mountaineers will play Clarke County in the Region B semifinals on Wednesday.
"We know Clarke has a good team," Crigler said. "Our best defender that would have matched up against [Clarke's] Aubrey Fletcher, ended up being taken to the hospital this evening, so I don't know how that is going to work out for us."
As for Central, the loss meant the end of the road for a season that saw many personal and team triumphs.
"The girls really stepped up throughout the season," Kwiatkowski said. "I am just so proud of the way they played all season. They are just a really great group of girls that have come so far."