With each W.T. Woodson player that approached the ball during penalty kicks of Wednesday’s Virginia AAA Northern Region girls’ soccer semifinal, Chantilly goalie Sara Margarida weighed the seemingly numerous options for countering the ensuing shot. Once Margarida made her decision, she stuck with it, finding confidence in her belief that the pressure was on the shooter, not the freshman keeper.
“I couldn’t let nerves get to me, especially at that point,” Margarida said. “I just trusted myself and trusted my teammates.”
Three times Margardia stifled the Cavaliers, falling low, diving left and charging forward to keep the Chargers’ region title and state tournament hopes alive. Her teammates took care of the rest, winning 3-1 on penalty kicks with Laila Gray nailing the decisive kick to lift the Chargers to a victory in Chantilly after playing to a 1-1 tie.
The Chargers will face No. 4 Yorktown, a 2-1 overtime winner against previously unbeaten and top-ranked Stone Bridge, in Friday’s region final.
The speedy Gray got the Chargers on board first, running down a Kayla Christian pass before faking out a Woodson defender to set up a left-footed goal in the 12th minute.
A foul in the goalie box gave the Cavaliers a chance to tie in the game’s 31st minute. Stephanie Wilson capitalized on the opportunity, blasting a penalty kick past Margarida to tie the score at one.
Despite the speed and sound defensive play that set up a handful of Chantilly scoring opportunities, the Cavaliers stood strong behind the stifling saves of senior goalkeeper Jessica Printz.
“We had a ton of chances and were creating a lot on offense, but we just couldn’t find that final ball to finish,” Chargers Coach Melissa Bibbee said. “All our shots seemed to be right at the keeper or over the goal or wide.”
After both teams missed their first two shots in penalty kicks, Chantilly’s Allie Harwick froze the goalie with a shot into the right pocket of the net. Margarida’s three saves and a Kelsey Young score for Chantilly left Woodson’s hopes on the foot of Maura Aman, who came through.
That shifted the pressure to Chantilly’s Gray, who reminded herself to avoid the goalie’s eyes and pretend it was practice, booted the decisive score into the right side of the net to give Chantilly a 3-1 advantage.
In the other semifinal, Yorktown rode the strong play of goalie Monica Thom and two scores by Alex Puletti, including the game-winner off a Meghan Flynn assist in overtime to knock off No. 1 Stone Bridge.
“Overtime was pretty similar to the rest of the game. Stone Bridge had a ton of opportunities on us and we didn’t have as many as we would have liked,” Patriots Coach Vicky Brunt said, “but Monica had the game of her life and came up with four or five big saves before Alex made the winning goal.”
In a Northwest Region semifinal, Battlefield battled to a scoreless tie with Albemarle before prevailing 4-3 in penalty kicks. The Bobcats advance to Friday’s region final to face Colonial Forge, which beat Forest Park, 4-2. In the A Region B semifinals, George Mason routed Appomattox, 7-0, to earn a state tournament berth and set up Friday’s region championship against Stuarts Draft.