By Jeff Nations
WINCHESTER -- Rodrigo Casteriana locked eyes with Millbrook's Joshua Lee during Tuesday's Northwestern District boys soccer tournament championship game.
The only thing standing between Lee and an equalizing goal was Sherando's Casteriana as he prepared to try and stop a penalty kick.
"He was actually staring right at me, so I just gave him back the stare," Casteriana said. "And then I saw him kind of moving towards the right, and that's when I went that way."
Casteriana shifted and sprang, blocking the on-target shot for perhaps his most important save in a season full of them. Sherando soon added to its lead and walked away with a 3-1 victory.
Had Casteriana not blocked that penalty kick, though, it might well have been a different story for Sherando (14-1-1).
"That's huge because that's a momentum changer, right there," Anderson said. "That gave us energy and kind of took a little bit out of them."
After Casteriana's key save with 29:15 to play, the Warriors got that breathing room less than three minutes later. Sherando's Tyler Morris hit a hard shot off a Pioneers defender from the top of the box, and Andrew Wade's follow shot clanged off the crossbar. Sherando's Tommy Buono was there to clean it up, though, following into the box to punch in a shot past Millbrook goalkeeper Taylor James.
"I think we're really powerful on the field," Buono said. "I don't think we're just a set-piece team."
That's the rap the Warriors have sort of gathered this season, but Millbrook coach Keith Kilmer didn't see that on Tuesday.
"This is the first game this season that they've scored on us in the run of play," Kilmer said. "Everything else has been set pieces. We stopped those set pieces today, and they scored on us in the run of play and on a PK."
Sherando did take the early lead on Cade Petty's penalty kick after Buono was taken down in the penalty box. That gave the Warriors a 1-0 halftime lead despite Millbrook holding the edge on shot attempts (11-4) in the first 40 minutes.
"Every time we play them, they're constantly getting shots on me and stuff," Casteriana said. "They're always pressuring our side of the ball. They're a pretty good team. They're tough."
Up 2-0, the Warriors got more insurance with 15:20 to play when Baylen McCarthy delivered a beautiful cross to Oscar Correa for a one-on-one chance. Correa delivered and Sherando had a three-goal lead.
The Pioneers kept the pressure up, and finally broke through with 2:18 to play when Tyler Gray collected a loose ball in the box and knocked a shot past Casteriana.
The Pioneers forced Casteriana into 12 saves, but couldn't prevent the Warriors from winning their first district tournament championship since 2007.
"Yeah, we tested him, but he's an outstanding keeper," Kilmer said. "I am not sad to see him graduating from this district, I'll put it that way."
Anderson won't be so happy to see his keeper go.
"If he's not district player of the year now, something's definitely wrong," Anderson said.
Contact Sports Editor Jeff Nations at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or email@example.com>