LYNCHBURG, Va. — Dominion goalkeeper Alie Brandt thought it would never end. Saturday’s Virginia 4A state final against Jefferson Forest had it all: two goals in the first three minutes, a National Gatorade player of the year, a game-tying goal in the final three minutes, a premature championship celebration, four overtimes and 15 rounds of penalty kicks.
And it also had Brandt, an easygoing sophomore who returned to soccer this season after enduring two knee surgeries within the last 18 months. But there she was sporting a big black brace, standing in the net to face the 15th and final penalty kick. Her team led 13-12, and one of Jefferson Forest’s best players stepped to the line.
Brandt couldn’t read her hips, and had no idea what direction the ball was headed. So she told herself to go right, then leaned left, then changed her mind again. It was the perfect guess. In Dominion’s first ever state tournament appearance, Brandt made the vital save in the middle of the net to lift the Titans to a 3-3 (13-12) shootout win in a thriller in Lynchburg.
“I was really nervous,” Brandt said. “I thought she was going to go right, but then she went down the middle, so I just kind of flipped. It was crazy.”
The win secured the first-ever state title Dominion (21-5-1), which beat Jefferson Forest for the second time in as many weeks. But unlike last week’s 4A North region final, the Titans were nearly upended by a brilliant second-half performance by Jefferson Forest junior and National Gatorade Player of the Year Katie Cousins.
Dominion sophomore Breanna Mitchell keyed two Titans’ goals in the opening three minutes of the game — including an assist to Meghan Hale 29 seconds in and a hard-charging goal two minutes later — but she had to duel with Cousins in the second half.
After Cousins one-timed a cross in front of the net to pull Jefferson Forest within 2-1 in the 59th minute, Mitchell saw an opportunity to strike just above the box and took it, depositing a 19-yard rocket into the top right corner to give her team a 3-1 lead. But Cousins wasn’t done, when two minutes later she collected a ball inside the box and struck into the upper left corner and Jefferson Forest tied the game at 3-3 with 2:18 left on a Dana Bryant goal.
“It was very stressful,” Mitchell said. “I was doubting it a little bit. I was scared that we couldn’t come back, because we had the lead and then they were starting to get momentum scoring and stuff. Just kept thinking, ‘we can do it.’ ”
Cousins nearly ended it in the third overtime, when she floated a ball from about 25 yards out — but the ball drilled the left post.
Dominion Coach Michael Reles allowed the team to pick its goalkeeper and shooting roster before the shootout, and the team looked drained after 100 minutes of play.
Brandt had to come up with a save in the third round after her team missed. She allowed 15 balls into the back of the net during the contest, but she made crucial stops at the perfect times — in the 10th round, and then in the 15th.
“This is huge. . . . This is my first year back in a year and a half,” Brandt said. “It was a really crazy ride, coming here.”