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By Jeremy Stafford - firstname.lastname@example.org
FALLS CHURCH -- It wasn't a game-winning goal, nor was it a game-tying goal, but Clarke County senior Megan Allison's score in the 76th minute of Wednesday's Bull Run District tournament championship still gave the Eagles every reason to leap from their bench in animated celebration.
Because even though Clarke County lost 2-1 to George Mason, even though Allison and Kasey Canterbury and Shelby Brown and Logan Johnson and Kayla Ward and the rest of the Clarke County seniors will end their careers as district runners-up, Allison's goal proved the Mustangs aren't infallible. They aren't immune to mistakes. And Clarke County, even with leading goal-scorer Aubrey Fletcher sidelined with an injury, can play with the defending Group A state champion.
"This was a good confidence-builder," Allison said. "The score doesn't show it, but it means a lot to our team and it means a lot in our heart that we did come and play tonight, and we showed what we have."
Allison's goal really was quite something: Ward played a ball up to Allison; Allison tapped the ball over to Meredith Roberts, freezing the defense for an instant; and Roberts tapped it back.
Allison's rocket caromed off the far post. Her goal was only the third district goal scored on George Mason. Clarke County players also scored the other two goals.
"We definitely held possession way better than we have, and we put a lot of combinations together from the defense to midfield to strikers," Canterbury said. "I think that made a lot of difference, and not just playing kickball."
Clarke County keeper Morgan Fletcher couldn't do much about the two goals scored on her. In both cases she was left one-on-one with a George Mason player. The first came in the sixth minute, when district Player of the Year Violet Miller sent a goal left post. The second came in the ninth minute, when freshman Claire Trevisan properly finished a run down the middle.
Otherwise it was Clarke County, and not George Mason, that possessed the ball, broke runs down the flanks, sent shots on goal.
The Eagles outshot the Mustangs 14-13. Morgan Fletcher had four saves in the game. But it was George Mason keeper Rebecca Moot's four saves in the first half that proved most pivotal to the Mustangs' win.
In both the 29th and 31st minute, Allison ripped shots from the left flank. The first flew wide; the second was caught.
Brianna Harrell sent a shot wide left in the 36th minute, and Brown's lob in the 66th minute was saved.
Eagles coach Terry Ellis said that even a close loss to George Mason is something of a moral victory for Clarke County: "I think it was a huge momentum-boost to come out of here even with a loss."
In the 72nd minute, George Mason junior Leah Roth won a 50-50 ball, sprinted down the left touchline, curled into the penalty box and scored.
Then her score was waved off. And she was given a red card. She had apparently thrown an elbow at the head of an Eagles player. She left the game with eight minutes remaining.
Clarke County's next shot resulted in Allison's goal. In the 79th minute Roberts closed in on a 50-50 ball in the Eagles' attacking third, but Moot left the goal and broke up the play.
Following the game, the all-Bull Run District teams were announced: Brown, Allison, Sarah Alger, and Brittany Teasley were named to the second team. Canterbury, Dixie Hurtado, Courtney Butterfass and Aubrey Fletcher were named to the first team.
Strasburg's Anna Sparacio was named to the second team.
Clarke County will travel to Nelson County on Monday in a Region B tournament quarterfinal game.