Boys’ soccer: Nick Der-Hacopian lifts Briar Woods into Virginia AA Region II final vs. Tuscarora

After Briar Woods forward Nick Der-Hacopian scored the go-ahead goal against Park View in Thursday night’s Virginia AA Region II semifinal, he rolled into the grass on the side of the net and stayed there for a moment. Then he put his hands up and lay down on his back, exhausted.

Just 48 hours earlier he and his teammates were left drained after an emotional 6-5 penalty kick win over Western Albemarle.

Der-Hacopian’s goal came in the middle of the second half, and on a night when he and his teammates were pushed to their limit against Park View, it changed the complexion of the match and lifted the Falcons to a 2-1 win in Ashburn. Briar Woods (14-6-1), which earned a state quarterfinal berth with the win, will meet AA Dulles District foe Tuscarora on Friday night, after the Huskies beat Sherando, 1-0 in overtime, in the other Region II semifinal in Leesburg.

“After Tuesday night, going into penalty kicks after double overtime, we were definitely exhausted,” Der-Hacopian said. “We pulled through and got the win.”

Park View (11-7-2) was embarrassed by Briar Woods just four weeks ago, losing 5-0 in its most lopsided loss of the season. But the Patriots were desperate to keep their season alive Thursday night, and looked the part despite getting dominated in the possession game by the Falcons.

The Patriots dodged a couple of golden scoring opportunities by Briar Woods, including a ball that hit the post midway through the first half. Park View freshman Paul Justiniano scored with about a minute left in the first half, weaving through a scrum of players in front of the Briar Woods goal to head in a set piece dropped in from about 30 yards away by Leonel Santos.

“Even in the beginning of the game, it looked like we weren’t ready to play,” said Briar Woods junior Collin Verfurth, who entered Thursday’s game with 17 goals. “We have 13 seniors, and we didn’t want it to be their last game. So we had to come together as a family.”

After Briar Woods tightened the screws defensively, Verfurth got the Falcons even when he scored on a penalty kick eight minutes into the second half. About 15 minutes later, the Falcons played a ball through the Park View zone to Der-Hacopian, who fielded it near the top of the box and beat the Patriots’ keeper low.

“We just, you know, stay composed and went through and went into the locker room and just focused on what we needed to do,” Der-Hacopian said. “And we went out there and got a goal, and changed the whole tempo. It went our way.”

In the other semifinal, Tuscarora (20-0-2) out-shot Sherando by a wide margin in regulation, but needed extra time to punch its ticket to Friday night’s final.

The Huskies scored a few minutes into the first overtime, taking the lead after Diego Rodriguez made a turn on a deflected ball inside the Sherando box following a corner kick. It was the 15th shutout of the season for Tuscarora, which has beaten Briar Woods twice this season. The most recent victory came May 23 in the Dulles District tournament final, when the Huskies prevailed, 1-0.

“It seems for the past two years they’ve always been there, right there with us.” Tuscarora Coach Dave Gryder said of hosting the Falcons. “It’s definitely going to be a challenge playing a team for a third time.”

Roman Stubbs covers the University of Maryland athletics for The Washington Post.
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