Lapses hurt Generals in loss

BERRYVILLE – A pair of defensive breakdowns put Stonewall Jackson’s girls soccer team in an early bind against host Clarke County in the Conference 35 tournament semifinals Tuesday evening.

Eagles freshman Sydney Staples found herself open for two uncontested shots in the first 10 minutes of action, and the midfielder capitalized both times with goals to set the tone for Clarke County’s 5-0 win. The second-seeded Eagles, who locked up a Region 2A East berth with the victory, advance to the Conference 35 championship Thursday at top-seeded George Mason, while Stonewall’s season came to an end.

“We did well in the first half except for marking [Staples],” Generals coach Hap Kwiatkowski said. “We lost her in the first 15 minutes of the game.”

With the No. 3 Generals (8-8-1) focused on shutting down Clarke County senior Emily Deem and junior Hannah Ravenscroft, the scoring opportunities opened quickly for Staples. The freshman scored the match’s first goal from 20 yards out in the ninth minute off an assist by Ravenscroft, as Staples was left unguarded near the top of the penalty box before firing a rolling shot into the left side of the net.

Staples scored again a minute later when the ball found its way to her feet at the top of the 18 and she sent a sliding shot on the ground once again toward the left post.

“She was unmarked those two times – uncontested, no pressure on the ball whatsoever,” Kwiatkowski said. “The player that was supposed to be on her unmarked and I didn’t catch it in time, twice.”

Stonewall Jackson held the Eagles (16-3-1) scoreless for the rest of the first half, but Clarke County put the game out of reach with three goals in the first 15 minutes of the second half. Kwiatkowski said the Generals were physically worn down in the second half.

“I believe our fitness was a problem,” he said.

Clarke County added to its two-goal lead just over two minutes into the second half, as Stonewall goalkeeper Reganne Brinkley’s save on Michaela Harrell’s shot from the middle of the box was followed by Eagles freshman Vivian Hurtado for a 5-yard goal.

Deem scored off an assist from Staples in the 49th minute on a rolling shot that skipped through Brinkley’s hands for a 4-0 Eagles lead, and Sara Flick capped the scoring with 25 minutes remaining when she converted a 10-yard goal off a nice through pass in the box by Danielle Toone.

Eagles coach Larry Hart said Clarke County emphasized getting the ball to the middle early in the match to create some scoring opportunities.

“We’ve been working a lot of stuff to try to come up with, so that the girls can make a quicker, better decision and get an opportunity. Not just play kickball and run-and-gun,” Hart said. “I thought we did a really good job of finding people’s feet and then making the next pass.”

Clarke County enjoyed a lopsided advantage in shots, firing 27 to Stonewall Jackson’s seven. Brinkley had 11 saves for Stonewall.

The Generals did have a few scoring opportunities throughout the game but came up empty a couple times on combination plays with forwards Emily Jordan and LuLu Funkhouser.

Tuesday’s loss marked the second straight season that Stonewall’s season came to an end at the hands of Clarke County in the Conference 35 semifinals. Kwiatkowski, who wrapped up his first season as the Generals’ head coach, said he doesn’t think Stonewall has ever beaten Clarke County in girls soccer.

“It’s like one of those psyche things,” he said. ” … It’s just the confidence they have to get in playing the teams. This is the first time all season we met them. Maybe a second time we meet them, maybe the score is a little bit closer.

“It was fun and exciting,” Kwiatkowski added of the Generals’ 2015 season. “Looking forward to a rewarding season next season.”

Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or bfauber@nvdaily.com