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    Raiders score early, often to cruise past Titans

    Loudoun County players rejoice after one of their six goals during a Conference 21 semifinal game against Dominion. A 6-0 victory kept the Raiders unbeaten this season and propelled them in the conference championship game.—Times-Mirror/Rick Wasser
    The Loudoun County Raiders girls' soccer team jumped ahead 3-0 after 15 minutes, put in another one before halftime and - for good measure - added a pair early in the second half to complete a decisive 6-0 victory over the Dominion Titans in the semifinal round of the Conference 21 tournament May 22 in Leesburg.

    "It was a successful day. We wanted to keep the girls moving around, attacking aggressively, like they've been doing pretty much all season," said County's 15-year head coach Kirk Smith.

    "Our goals were to score, get the shutout, be aggressive and try to stay healthy, and we did that."

    The result keeps the No. 1 seed Raiders (15-0-1) undefeated while granting them a slot in the Conference 21 championship game May 26, and a high seed in the 4A North region tournament, commencing June 1.

    A win in the conference title tilt would guarantee County a home game to kick off regionals.

    The visiting No. 5 seed Titans (8-10), the statewide champions of Group 4A from a year ago, see their season come to a close. Dominion reached the conference semifinals with a 4-1 victory May 19 against No. 4 seed Millbrook.

    The sharp-shooting left leg of sophomore forward Allyson Brown got the ball rolling for the Raiders in the ninth minute. Brown got inside the box to challenge Dominion's junior keeper Alie Brandt, juked right, then got it on her left foot for a hot grounder that tumbled into the net.

    Five minutes later, Brown displayed patience in waiting for the ball to settle before pounding in a solid left-footed liner.

    A minute after that, fellow sophomore forward Emily Mothersbaugh got in on the act with a 25-yard right-footer that curled toward the goal mouth and tucked itself just inside the post, above the reach of Brandt.

    In the 30th minute, the Titans executed what became their best scoring chance of the evening when a corner kick sailed through a crowd in front of Raider keeper Hannah McShea, but went untouched.

    County kept up the pressure, forcing Dominion defenders Skylar Bickart, Abby Weber and Sasha Szymanowicz into being active in the back third. Brandt was called upon to make two diving saves, keeping County momentarily off the board.

    During first-half stoppage time, the Raiders' Hailey Shaw lifted a corner kick directly to the forehead of Emily Littell, who redirected it squarely into the net. The well-executed set piece gave County a 4-0 halftime lead.

    That lead grew in the 14th minute of the second half. Littell smacked a free kick that ricocheted off the Titans' defensive wall, then smacked it again, off the hands of keeper Brandt. Mothersbaugh was there to knock in the rebound.

    Two minutes later, freshman Sabrina Gillis launched a right-footed corner kick that curled its way into the far side of the net.

    Brown had a shot at a hat trick, sending another left-footer Brandt's way, but the Dominion keeper dove to deny Brown's third goal.

    In the second half's 30th minute, the Titans' Breanna Mitchell crossed a left-footed pass to fellow junior forward Kayla Abel, but they couldn't connect on the header attempt.

    The Raiders' defensive sheet was kept characteristically clean, while they added a half-dozen to their astronomical offensive total. County's goal differential for the season now stands at 104 goals scored, five goals allowed - the largest spread in Smith's coaching career.

    Smith said Littell has 31 goals, Brown has 24 and Mothersbaugh has scored 14, adding that he'd lost track of the number of Raiders with five or more tallies on the season.

    "They don't just stand around and watch Emily and Allyson. When those two are getting marked, other girls are stepping up."

    -Photos by Rick Wasser

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