Despite strong defensive effort, Falcons fall to Cougars

STUARTS DRAFT — Central played a strong game defensively Tuesday night, but couldn’t come up with enough offense.

The Falcons gave up a late first-half goal in an eventual 1-0 girls soccer loss to Stuarts Draft in the Region 2A East quarterfinals.

“I thought they did very well defensively,” Central coach Kim Dellinger said. “We had some shots early on offensively and towards the end, obviously. I thought we had some push on the ball, just couldn’t get our shots off.”

Stuarts Draft’s Emma Gallagher made a diving save on a Central shot, just five minutes into the game. But Central didn’t have many other opportunities the rest of the first half.

The Cougars dominated possession throughout the first half.

Stuarts Draft’s Rachel Sauder had a good shot with 18 minutes left in the first half, but Central sophomore goalkeeper Kendall Herbaugh came up with a nice save.

With about two minutes left, Stuarts Draft’s Rissa Martin tried to lob the ball over Herbaugh’s head but she was able to leap up and make the save.

“I told her before the game you’re going to have to come out and attack the ball a lot more, because they’re making those through balls and those runs and she did it very well,” Dellinger said. “She attacked the ball. She put her body up there. I thought she did well. And she’s only a sophomore, so she’s got two more years to do a lot more learning.”

Stuarts Draft coach Bridget Lane said it was frustrating seeing her team not capitalize on its opportunities.

“They do have a great goalkeeper. We just could not find the back of the net,” Lane said. “We are a defensive team. With the high pressure of this game, I think my girls were like let’s get it off our feet quick, and we weren’t taking the time to actually look up and find the goal. I think that was what was killing us.”

Lane said she was nervous about what she was going to tell her team at halftime with a scoreless game, until Stuarts Draft’s Claire Bryant scored with just 13 seconds left in the first half.

“Both teams, I think, we’re exhausted,” Lane said. “It’s hot out here. We were literally running back and forth — everybody. So for Claire to get that — it boosted up our morale going into the half.”

“That particular goal, we just had a little breakdown for a second in the layering up of the defense,” Dellinger said. “But the defense can only take so many shots.”

The Falcons (12-6-2) had a few more opportunities in the second half.

With about 20 minutes left it appeared Central junior Lauren Cook might get a really good shot at the goal on a loose ball. However, Gallagher was able to beat Cook to the loose ball and kick it away.

The Falcons started to take control of possession more over the last 10 minutes, and had three shots in the final two minutes but couldn’t find the back of the net.

The Cougars (18-0) host Goochland today in the regional semifinals for a Group 2A state berth.

Lane said the win over the Falcons was a good test for her squad.

“It was a tough game for us,” Lane said. “We knew coming out that this team was very compatible to us — how we play. I told my team it was two defensive teams coming together tonight. I think that was hard for us, because we have a great defense. They have a great defense. So our ultimate goal was how are we going to score against a defensive team? I think we played well.”

Dellinger said the team will miss the five seniors. He said the goal for next year’s team will be to keep working on improving on offense.

“I said in the beginning of the season we need to work on the offense a little bit,” Dellinger said. “The defense has been solid, solid, solid. It’s just we need to get that offense rolling.”