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Washington Spirit prevail in front of sold-out crowd at Evergreen SportsPlex

The Washington Spirit’s first game in the state of Virginia ended victoriously.

The Spirit, who play in the National Women’s Soccer League, defeated the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, 5-0, in a preseason match March 25 at Evergreen SportsPlex in Leesburg.

Each of Washington's five goals came from a different player – with four coming after halftime – before a sold-out crowd of 2,000.

“In the first half, it kind of took us a little while to get into it, but it’s preseason,” defender Whitney Church said. “We’re kind of working out the kinks and in the second half, we were passing balls, stringing a bunch of passes together at a time.”

The breakthrough came in the 35th minute, when Line Sigvardsen Jensen caught the North Carolina goalkeeper off her line from 40 yards out.

In the second half, Katie Stengel opened the scoring with an Olimpico, a goal directly off a corner kick, in the 49th minute.

Three minutes later, Cheyna Williams added a third for the Spirit when she beat a Tar Heels defender down the right wing and slotted a low shot to the far post.

With the game well in Washington’s favor, the Spirit added their fourth and fifth goals in the 81st and 89th minutes. Kristie Mewis went for power on a free kick just outside the 18 and Lindsay Agnew deftly pushed the ball around the keeper for a clear finish.

Of the goals scored, three – Sigvardsen Jensen, Mewis and Agnew – were from players who joined the Spirit this offseason. Both Mewis and Agnew came on as substitutions in the 54th minute.

For the Spirit, it was its second straight win to open the preseason of it and the NWSL’s fifth season of existence. It beat Penn State University, 3-0, one week earlier.

Last season, Washington was within moments of winning the NWSL championship before a late goal deep into extra time forced penalty kicks at 2-2. The Spirit fell in the shootout to the Western New York Flash.

“We’re all striving to get back to where we were last year,” Church said. “Getting to get the finals and being that close to victory, it really sits with you. So I know that this year, we’re all coming in and we’re really wanting to push ourselves and get our team in that same position that we were in last year.”

The Spirit, who normally plays its home matches at the Maryland SoccerPlex in Germantown, Md., held the match in Leesburg as a chance to expand its footprint.

Church, along with Spirit goalkeeper DiDi Haracic, said they particularly enjoyed the experience as Loudoun County natives.

“It’s funny because we were actually telling everyone, welcome to our neck of the woods now,” Haracic said. “But I think it’s also was a nice way to branch out of the SoccerPlex and just to reach out to other locals nearby.”

Church, an Ashburn native, graduated from Broad Run in 2011; Haracic, from Round Hill, did the same at Loudoun Valley in 2010.

Both players said they had friends and family members in attendance to watch the game.

Against North Carolina, Church played the entirety of the game at center back, while Haracic did not see action. Church enters her third season with the Spirit and Haracic in her second.

Emily Fox, a Stone Bridge alumnus who enrolled early at North Carolina this spring, also started and played the full 90 minutes. The Tar Heels have won 21 NCAA women’s soccer championships, including most recently in 2012.

The Spirit closes out its preseason schedule against Duke University on April 1 and the University of Virginia on April 8 at the Maryland SportsPlex.

Though nothing else is planned for this season, a Spirit spokesperson did not rule out a possible return to Evergreen Sportsplex in the future.

Washington hosts the North Carolina Courage, who had been the Flash, in its season opener April 15.

GOALS
WSH – Line Sigvardsen Jensen 35’
WSH – Katie Stengel 49’
WSH – Cheyna Williams 52’
WSH – Kristie Mewis 81’
WSH – Lindsay Agnew (Kristie Mewis assist) 89’

Yellow cards: Line Sigvardsen Jensen 58’


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