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    Spartans settle for draw after late Panther goal

    Broad Run junior Juliet Esnardo looks to get a touch on the ball with three Potomac Falls players closing in. Esnardo assisted on the Spartans’ lone goal in a 1-1 draw.—Times-Mirror Photo/Chuck Moore
    Holding a 1-0 lead against Potomac Falls in the waning minutes of an April 11 girls' soccer match, it appeared host Broad Run, who had controlled play for most of the game, would keep its perfect record intact.

    However, Mother Nature had other plans for the outcome of this Virginia 5A Conference 14 match-up.

    With four minutes remaining and rain still heavily falling as it had throughout the game, Potomac Falls sophomore midfielder Becca Voyack attempted to cross a corner kick attempt into the box. The cross didn’t find any of her teammates feet, but instead took an unexpected bounce off the wet grass and was deflected by Spartan goalkeeper Maddy Kopecky.

    The ball barely rolled over the goal line to tie the match. Panther goalkeeper Sydney Sherman - making her first varsity start - then held off a furious offensive charge from Broad Run in the overtime period to secure a 1-1 tie with the traditional powerhouse.

    “I was very surprised. It’s awesome, to tie the game was a big accomplishment for us,” said Voyack, who notched her third goal of the season. “I was trying to cross it, but the goalie got in front of it to try and catch it. With the rain, and the ball being so slippery, it just found its way into the net.”

    Even though it goes down as a tie in the standings, it was clear that the Panthers (2-2-1) were a little more satisfied with the result than the Spartans (7-0-1). Both teams were missing valuable players, including Broad Run’s standout junior Caroline Kerns, a Virginia Tech commit.

    “I was very excited for it, I had to see what everyone could do with five starters out,” Panther coach Lisa Beezer explained. “Other times you can’t do that, but it was incredible. We’ve had issues of getting down on ourselves when we get scored on, and we got scored on early, and I saw none of it. They’re a very coachable group that do anything that is asked of them.”

    Beezer continued: “We probably just tied a game in which we might have been in the gutter a little bit without our starters. This was a game of girls who stepped up and worked so hard while keeping their heads straight.”

    The Panthers wouldn’t have even been in a position to tie the game had Sherman not played flawlessly in goal. Thrust into the starting role in the midst of a downpour, Sherman recorded double-digit saves.

    “I was pretty happy with the way I played,” Sherman said. “The defense was great, and a huge part of why we were able to keep them to one goal ... this game is huge, our confidence is going to keep building off of this, and we’ll continue to get better.”

    Broad Run, three years removed from its last state championship, received an early goal on a nicely placed kick from junior forward Steph Stahl with 18 minutes remaining in the first half. Junior forward Juliet Esnardo assisted on Stahl’s second tally of the season. Stahl emphasized that winning is more important than her personal achievements.

    “It was such a relief and it feels so nice, especially since I was in kind of a slump,” Stahl explained. “It’s just disappointing to have a goal go in like that when it’s not really the fault of our team ... But tonight gets us tougher, especially mentally.”

    Broad Run coach Claire Collins feels the game will only help her young team, which has two seniors, in the future.

    “We just need to take advantage of our opportunities when we get them," Collins said. "I thought their goalkeeper played a great game tonight, she stepped up big in her first start."

    The game provided both teams an early look at what Conference 14 play will be like this spring. Stone Bridge and Tuscarora are currently undefeated, while Briar Woods has dropped just one game. Freedom also possesses a winning record.

    "We’re used to playing difficult teams, but our conference is really strong obviously," Collins noted. "We’re so happy with that because we get to see great competition night in and night out, and that will help us down the road.”

    “We showed we were one of the teams that can compete in this league too,” Beezer concluded. “If you keep playing tough games against these teams, you develop a mentality that you can play with them every night.”

    -Photos by Chuck Moore

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