Boys’ soccer: W.T. Woodson, Mount Vernon earn dramatic wins in penalty kicks of Northern Region tournament

There are only a few games in John McAuley’s 16-year career at W.T. Woodson that are worth remembering, and Thursday night’s thrilling win in penalty kicks over South Lakes in the Virginia AAA Northern Region quarterfinals will certainly be one of them, he said Friday.

After W.T. Woodson rallied to tie the game at 1-1 in the second half, the Cavaliers then survived overtime against the Seahawks — and kept their season alive by winning 3-2 in penalty kicks. The Seahawks lost for the first time in 16 matches. W.T. Woodson will advance to play Mount Vernon Wednesday in a Northern Region semifinal, after the Majors advanced Thursday by winning 2-1 in penalty kicks over T.C. Williams. In the other Northern Region quarterfinals Thursday, Oakton defeated Hayfield, 2-1, while Lake Braddock took down Langley 3-0. Those two teams will meet next Wednesday.

“This is definitely one I’ll always remember,” McAuley said of Woodson’s dramatic win. “It was a great high school game.”

W.T. Woodson (15-3) rallied late in the second half after South Lakes (16-2) had taken a 1-0 lead on a counter play. The Cavaliers knotted the game on a set piece. The ball landed near post, and senior Michael Cherry flicked the ball to the back post to set up a header from Chris Fanet to tie the game.

McAuley lauded the midfield matchup between Cherry and South Lakes standout Suliaman Dainkeh, calling the head-to-head play between the seniors “a 100 minute battle.” After overtime yielded no result, the teams traded a goal apiece in their first two penalty kick tries, and were knotted at 2-2 after each made their third attempt. Dainkeh’s try in the fourth slot was saved by Woodson keeper Nick Zohary, but the Cavaliers couldn’t take the lead after Cherry’s kick hit the right post.

That led to the final try of the night for both teams. And after Zohary made his third save in five tries, Fanet drilled his kick home to give the Cavaliers a 3-2 advantage and a bid in next week’s semifinal.

“You live and die with the senior captain,” McAuley said of Fanet. “That’s who you want on the line at that point. That’s why I have him as [the fifth kicker], and he definitely came through for us.”

Mount Vernon’s result was eerily similar against T.C. Williams (15-5-2). After the two teams battled to a 1-1 draw in regulation and overtime, the Majors’ took a 2-1 advantage in penalty kicks after Rahim Dorsey and Erik Rodriquez converted their kicks in the second and third spots. But Mount Vernon’s keeper made two saves in the final two rounds, and Mount Vernon (10-7-2) celebrated its sixth straight win.

“T.C. is a great squad. Both teams were just physically exhausted after the game,” Mount Vernon Coach Anthony Garza said. “Just having that win, just the exhaustion you could see the way they felt there. Big win.”

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