By Brad Fauber
LEESBURG -- Sherando may have been the underdog when it traveled to unbeaten Tuscarora for the Region II boys soccer semifinal match on Thursday, but the Warriors hardly seemed fazed by having to square up against last season's Group AA state runner-up.
The Warriors stood toe-to-toe with the powerful Huskies, keeping Tuscarora's dangerous offensive attack out of the net in regulation and forcing the match into an overtime period. Unfortunately for Sherando, the Huskies' attack could only be held in check for so long, and a goal by Tuscarora's Diego Rodriguez in the first overtime period was the difference in Tuscarora's thrilling 1-0 victory.
"We had opportunities, and again I was glad the fight they had in them. It's been a great season for us," Warriors coach Patrick Anderson said. "A lot to be proud about representing us in a good way because a lot of people thought we were going to get hammered. So I was pleased with the way they played."
That Thursday's loss ended what was a spectacular season for Sherando was bad enough, but the loss was made even more painful by the unfortunate sequence of events that led to Tuscarora's game-winning goal.
With just over three minutes remaining in the first of two five-minute overtime periods, Huskies junior Joe Farran sent a corner kick into the middle of the box, where it was headed into the air by teammate Sergio Resendiz. Shernado senior Cade Petty, who attempted to make a play on the ball, was dragged down in the box, which opened a shooting lane for Rodriguez. The Tuscarora freshman took advantage by sending the ball into the right side of the net from about 15 yards out for the go-ahead score.
"That's ridiculous. Our kids play that hard that long and [the official] doesn't call that foul? That's ridiculous," Anderson said. "But par for the course, we've got to adjust to it, but that's ridiculous. Our kids work this hard and this is what we get.
"I'm not blaming that, because [Tuscarora] played well, but give us an opportunity."
Sherando made a determined push to get the equalizing goal in the second overtime period, as the Warriors nearly had an opportunity for a score on a set play off a throw-in, but Petty overran the ball on the back post.
The Warriors had one final opportunity as the seconds ticked away, but Petty's shot from the middle of the box grazed the crossbar and soared over the net.
"It was a challenge. We haven't had a challenge like that in some time now," Huskies coach Dave Gryder said. "Everything is one game, one goal and you move on, and tonight was our night there in overtime. And sometimes that's just the way it goes."
Rodriguez's late goal spoiled what had otherwise been valiant effort by Sherando's (16-2-1) defense, which withstood 21 shots in regulation behind a stiff back defensive line and the impressive play by senior goalkeeper Rodrigo Casteriana.
Casteriana made nine saves in the match, including a pair of huge blocks in the latter part of the second half to keep the shutout intact and give the Warriors a fighting chance.
Casteriana's biggest save of the evening came with time ticking away in regulation, as Tuscarora senior Kevin Nerio ripped a shot at the goal from about 10 yards out that was batted away by Casteriana.
That save came about 10 minutes after Casteriana made a spectacular sliding save on a one-on-one opportunity with Nerio inside the box.
"I was just trying to keep our team still in it," Casteriana said. "I was just trying to get the ball out and get us an opportunity to score a goal. If I can help my team out in whatever way possible to help maintain that scoreboard at zero, I'll do my best to do it."
Gryder said the Huskies were hurt offensively by the absence of Dulles District Player of the Year Angel Ceron-Garcia -- who was serving a one-game suspension as a result of a red card given in Tuesday's quarterfinal match -- although Gryder gave Sherando's defense credit for limiting Tuscarora's chances inside the 18.
Tuscarora (19-0-2) also played an outstanding game defensively, as the Warriors tallied just four shots on goal. Thursday's shutout was Tuscarora's 15th this season, and the 11th in their last 12 games. The Huskies will face Briar Woods in the Region II championship today.
For Anderson, it will be hard to say goodbye to a large senior class that has brought a lot of success to the program over the last several seasons.
"They mean so much. We worked so hard, and what they did this year, we haven't done that since 2007," he said. "They put a lot of hard work into it and I couldn't be prouder of these guys. It's going to be a hard group to get rid of. It's just a great group of kids, and they left a nice mark. Leave it better than when you got here, and they definitely did that."