By Jeff Nations
FRONT ROYAL -- Here's a sequel well worth checking out later this week.
After 90 minutes of back-and-forth, largely even soccer -- 80 minutes of regulation, then a pair of five-minute overtime periods -- Bull Run District girls soccer rivals Warren County and Clarke County left onlookers with something of a cliffhanger finish as they battled to a 2-2 tie on Monday night.
Fans won't have long to wait for Part II, though -- the Wildcats will visit Berryville to face Clarke County once again on Thursday night in a 7 p.m. match. With the tie, the Eagles and Wildcats are now tied for third in the district standings, although Warren County has played one more game.
"It's a good feeling, just because we haven't ever beaten them," Wildcats senior Anne Skube said. "We would have liked to have gotten the win, but it's better than a loss. We fought hard and played together as a team."
Clarke County (8-4-1) brought the early pressure against the Wildcats, giving Warren County goalkeeper Abbey O'Mara a workout in the first 25 minutes with a barrage of shots on goal. The Wildcats were up to the challenge, turning back dangerous early shots by Clarke's Hannah Ravenscroft and later Melissa Carter off a corner kick.
Warren County (9-4-1) started to turn the tables in the last 15 minutes of the first half, as leading scorer Kelsea Potts broke free on a run in the penalty area for her first attempt with 18:57 left in the half. Eagles goalkeeper Jessie Ambrosio swatted down Potts' rising shot and Clarke's defense cleared a follow by Nina Richards to keep the game scoreless.
The Eagles broke through first in the second half, when Taylor Marshall flicked a header off Jacquelyn Tredway's corner kick past O'Mara and into the upper left corner of the net with 29:31 to play.
Six minutes later, Potts got the Wildcats even when Skube threaded a through ball to her teammate for a run down the middle of the penalty area. Ambrosio charged to smother the play, but Potts deftly sidestepped her for an open look that she didn't miss.
"Once we see the field and see where the passes are, we're good to go," Skube said.
Potts struck again with 15:56 to go, making the most of another through ball from teammate Brooke Henry. Sandwiched between two defenders, Potts somehow slipped free and maintained possession to set up another one-on-one chance against a charging Ambrosio.
"She was coming 100 percent at me," Potts said of Ambrosio. "I just stopped it and let her slide right past me on that nice, wet grass."
Potts took it from there, chipping in a shot for her area-best 36th goal this season.
Clarke County coach Larry Hart thought his defenders made the wrong decision on contesting the ball where they did.
"We helped her out a little bit," Hart said. "If we execute our defense with our help, we eliminate that. We tried to force the action and charged the ball 35 yards out and then just stabbed at it."
The Wildcats kept up the pressure, but the Eagles still got the tying goal with just 6:24 to go on a heads-up play by Tredway. With the ball in Warren County's penalty area, O'Mara (11 saves) came out of the box to clear the ball. Instead, Tredway intercepted the kick and sent an arching shot over the keeper and into the net for the tying goal.
Neither team managed much pressure in overtime, although Potts did create one last chance with a run down the right side of the penalty area with about a minute to play. Potts sent a rising shot on target, but Ambrosio (nine saves) leapt high to tip the ball up and over the net.
"It was a hard-fought game between two close teams," Warren County coach Mike Carpenter said. "This team is coming around. From the William Monroe game [a 5-2 win last Friday] to this game, all the pieces are starting to click together. They're playing well off each other."
"... They've been so much fun to coach this season. They do everything you ask them to do."
Contact Sports Editor Jeff Nations at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or firstname.lastname@example.org>