By Brad Fauber
WINCHESTER -- Millbrook senior Brooke Borlie can't explain it, but when the Pioneers were awarded a free kick from just outside the penalty box late in Tuesday's girls soccer match with visiting Sherando, Borlie knew she was destined to kick it.
With the score knotted at 1-1 with a little more than four minutes remaining in the match, Borlie lined up behind the ball, which sat just to the left of the arc at the top of the box, and sent the kick high towards the top half of the goal. The ball sailed beyond the reach of Warriors goalkeeper Margarita Beyer, and it found the back of the net, propelling Millbrook to a hard-fought 2-1 Northwestern District victory.
"Devan [Davis] usually takes our free kicks and there was just something about it ... I just had a feeling, like I should have taken it," Borlie said. "I wasn't worried about the people in the wall and stuff like that, I just wanted to have a good, solid shot on goal. Luckily it went in -- it's a blessing that it went in."
Borlie's goal spoiled an otherwise valiant effort by the young Warriors (3-3, 1-1 Northwestern), who stood toe-to-toe with Millbrook (7-3, 2-0) in the first half and withstood an unrelenting Pioneers attack for much of the final 40 minutes.
"[Millbrook] played like a veteran group. It's a shame that we lost, but we battled hard," Warriors coach Rob Kilmer said. "They're just a pretty athletic team. They're well organized."
Sherando -- which started just one senior on Tuesday night -- held its own in the game's opening half, firing four shots to Millbrook's five and tying the match at 1-1 with a goal in the 32nd minute.
With the Warriors trailing 1-0, Sherando freshman Alex Snapp fired a shot attempt into the penalty box from 18 yards out. Instead of the net, the shot found teammate Audra Sites, who deflected the ball into the right side of the goal to tie the match.
But that would be the one and only time Sherando would find success against Millbrook goalkeeper Caitlin Schrader and the rest of the Pioneers' defense, which has allowed just two goals in the past four matches. The Warriors were limited to just two shot attempts in the second half, both resulting in saves by Schrader.
"It's just solid defense and a solid keeper," Pioneers coach Carter Smith said of Millbrook's recent defensive performance. "Caitlin [Schrader] is a fantastic keeper with great instincts. And our defense, from right to left, is just fantastic. They're very smart and they know what they're doing, so it helps out a lot."
Millbrook's offensive attack picked up in the second half, as the Pioneers fired 10 shots in the final 40 minutes, although Beyer was able to make six of her nine saves in the half to keep the Pioneers at bay until Borlie's game-deciding kick.
Millbrook's first goal of the evening came on a perfectly executed play on a throw-in along the sideline. Pioneers junior Alysse Hamm threw the ball from the sideline all the way into the middle of the penalty box, where teammate Casey Ackerman headed the ball past Beyer in the 25th minute.
"Alysse [Hamm] can throw it in like 50 yards, so of course we throw everybody in the box," Smith said. "Usually we aim for one player to flick it on to another player, but it just so happened that Casey [Ackerman] caught the corner and just said, 'I'm going for it,' and flicked it in. It was how we draw it up."
Sherando will be back in action on Thursday when it hosts district foe Skyline, and the Warriors will be looking to rebound with a win to stay in the district race.
"We're learning, we're growing, but we need to fully grow," Kilmer said. "We need to win these games."
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or firstname.lastname@example.org