Skyline girls can’t keep pace with Millbrook in soccer loss

Skyline's Jenna Stanley and Carrie Hotek push the ball past Millbrook's goalie Nicole Adams, left, and Mackenzie Gaddy to score a goal during first half soccer action Thursday night in Front Royal. Rich Cooley/Daily

FRONT ROYAL – Skyline High School girls soccer coach Kristy Beaune said she sees her team inching closer to becoming more competitive against Northwestern District opponents. But the Hawks’ last two matches showed there is still more work to be done.

After falling in blowout fashion to Sherando on Tuesday night, Skyline hosted another district rival in Millbrook on Thursday evening and was shut out in the second half en route to a 4-2 loss.

The Hawks started the season with four straight wins but have since dropped to 4-3-1 overall.

“Sherando wasn’t a great game but we’ve improved a lot just in the beginning of the season. We knew the harder games were coming, we just weren’t quite as prepared for the harder games,” said Beaune, whose team tied Handley last week at the start of district play. “And coming off of a hard fight against Handley, we get a little up on ourselves and then remember we’ve still gotta go out there and work.”

Skyline scored a goal late in the first half Thursday night to take a 2-2 tie into halftime before Millbrook (2-8) – a team battling some growing pains this season – put together what head coach Matt Cottino called one of its most complete halves of soccer this spring.

Skyline's Ali Haffer and Millbrook's Ashleigh Nail collide with the ball during first half girls' soccer Thursday night in Front Royal. Rich Cooley/Daily

The Pioneers largely controlled possession over the final 40 minutes – Skyline was limited to just one shot attempt in the second half – and fired 10 shots that produced a pair of goals.

“I thought the number one thing is we won the ball in the air,” Cottino said. “That was one of the things I stressed at halftime was we have to win that first ball. If we don’t win the first one, win the second one and I thought we did that in the center. It definitely changed our momentum and our energy.”

Millbrook delivered the big blow to the Hawks with 17 minutes to play, when junior Carrington Nordin beat Skyline keeper Jordan Heberle (five saves) on a penalty kick to break the 2-2 tie.

The sequence leading up to the penalty kick, Beaune said, dealt the most damage to the Hawks’ morale.

A handball just outside the top corner of the penalty box led to a direct kick for Millbrook moments earlier, and Nordin fired a shot that drew Heberle to her left and clanged off the crossbar into a mass of players in front of the goal. A Pioneer fired a hard follow-up shot right into the chest of a Skyline defender positioned on the goal line near the left post, and the defender reactively drew her hands up to protect herself from the incoming shot and was called for a handball. She drew a hard red card for what the referee determined was illegally interfering with a shot that would have clearly resulted in a goal.

Skyline's Molly Meador gets position over Millbrook's Carrington Nordin as she looks to pass the ball during first half soccer action Thursday night in Front Royal. Rich Cooley/Daily

“It was by no means a legit handball in the box,” Beaune said. “So in all honesty that shouldn’t have been a hard red. That should’ve been a soft red and it was at (the referee’s) discretion to take her out of the game. I think if he hadn’t red-carded her and just gave them the PK, it probably wouldn’t have affected us as much as throwing the card out there on something like that.”

The Pioneers sealed their second victory of the season with 4:30 left on a well-executed combo that saw Hannah Amos (one goal, one assist) deliver a touch pass to Evie Esslinger, who connected on a shot from the top of the box for her second goal of the match.

“I haven’t seen that all season,” Cottino said with a laugh. “Again that’s things we practice repetitively and it was nice to see them executed on the field. I know it’s tough to defend when you play that way and it was nice to see.”

Skyline struck first in the opening half on Carrie Hotek’s goal 14 minutes into the action. Hawks freshman Ali Haffer (two assists) started the scoring sequence by chipping a long pass into the penalty box, which bounced over the head of Millbrook keeper Nicole Adams as she charged from the goal. Hotek and teammate Jenna Stanley both converged on the ball – with Adams and another Pioneer defender in pursuit – as it trickled toward the goal line, and Hotek got a touch on it to nudge the ball across the line as the four tumbled into a heap near the right post.

Adams left the match with an injury she suffered during the pile up and was replaced by Indigo Kupka, who finished with two saves.

Skyline's Carrie Hotek gets a quick kick past Millbrook's Meredith Sigler during first half action Thursday night in Front Royal. Rich Cooley/Daily

The Pioneers countered with goals from Esslinger and Amos in a seven-minute span midway through the first half before Skyline knotted the score on senior Rachel Skube’s goal with five minutes on the clock.

Skube’s goal came on the end of a Haffer corner kick that sailed directly to the right foot of the senior, who was positioned in the center of the box.

“To let them see we could come back from behind, I mean that was a big thing,” Beaune said. “We have a tendency to get down on ourselves. Their touches are getting better. Their communication’s getting better.”

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

Skyline's Molly Meador, left, and Millbrook's Hilary Share go up for a header during first half girls soccer action Thursday night in Front Royal. Rich Cooley/Daily