Sayers’ late goal lifts Wildcats past to playoff win

FRONT ROYAL – Shauna Sayers was in the right spot at the right time Monday night.

With Warren County and Madison County tied and the final minutes ticking away during their Bull Run District girls soccer tournament quarterfinal match, Sayers, sprinting in the middle of the penalty box, suddenly found herself with the ball at her feet only several yards away from the net.

“I just saw the ball and I took the chance,” Sayers would recall a few minutes later.

That chance turned out to be the game winner for Warren County, as Sayers poked the ball past Madison County goalkeeper Amanda Jasper and into the back of the net to break the tie with less than two minutes remaining. The fourth-seeded Wildcats held on for a 3-2 win – the first playoff win the program’s history, according to head coach Mike Carpenter – and advance to the semifinal round at No. 1 George Mason at 5 p.m. Tuesday.

Sayers ended up the hero for Warren County (10-7) on Monday night, but it was fellow freshman Lisette Moya who initially attempted a game-winning shot that started the decisive sequence. As it turned out, it was Moya’s own shot attempt from deep in the 18 that ended up perfectly at Sayers’ feet.

“The ball was coming up and I went to shoot it but it bounced off the defender and Shauna followed like she was supposed to,” said Moya, who had a goal and an assist for the Wildcats.

Sayers, who finished with two goals on Monday night, led a Warren County offensive attack that fired 36 shots – 18 in each half – against Madison County and rallied from a two-goal deficit late in the first half.

Carpenter said both he and Mountaineers coach Bruce Parker expected a competitive match after the teams split two regular-season matches, adding that Warren County’s teamwork was a difference maker on Monday night.

“I was especially pleased with the passing and working together,” Carpenter said. “Moving off the ball and those passing combinations, I liked the teamwork out in the field tonight.”

Madison County (7-9-1) – the fifth seed in the district tournament – withstood an early barrage of Warren County shot attempts in the first half before the Mountaineers took an early lead on their first shot attempt of the game. Mountaineers senior Vanessa Long started a breakaway attempt for teammate Leigh Lumsden with a pass through the Wildcats’ defensive back line, and Lumsden fired an open shot as she crossed into the penalty box. The ball hit the crossbar and then caromed off the far post before settling into the back of the net to give Madison County a 1-0 lead in the 14th minute.

The Mountaineers gained a two-goal advantage 13 minutes later when freshman Morgan McClelland connected for a goal. Wildcats junior goalkeeper Rachel Liebl initially made a nice diving save on another shot attempt by Lumsden, but McClelland was able to gather the ball before it went out of bounds along the sideline and pushed the ball back into the box uncontested before firing a 12-yard shot. Liebl (seven saves) got her right hand on the ball before it bounced twice off the frame of the net, but the sideline referee ruled the ball had crossed the goal line before Liebl was able to corral the ball.

Warren County answered right back a minute later, however, as junior Savanah Falls found Sayers with a cross pass as both raced down the field, and Sayers connected on her first goal of the night to cut Madison’s lead to 2-1 in the 28th minute.

“It was really important because I think we got into their heads a little bit and we definitely came back at a good pace,” Sayers said.

The Wildcats’ one-goal deficit held until the opening minutes of the second half, as Moya gathered a pass from junior Courtney L’Amoreaux and fired a shot from the top of the 18 that soared into the left side of the net to tie the score.

“I think it was real important because it kind of showed them that we’re not just going to give up and give them the game that easily, that we’re here to battle,” Moya said.

Warren County’s defense, backed by five second-half saves by Liebl, shut out the Mountaineers over the final 40 minutes. Madison County fired 17 shots total, and Jasper finished with 14 saves for the Mountaineers, including nine in the second half.

“The same thing happened when we played them like two weeks ago, the same thing where it was back and forth trading goals,” Carpenter said. “Two competitive teams just playing hard. That’s what you want to see.”

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