Girls’ soccer: Courtenay Kaplan helps spark Tuscarora to unblemished start

For Courtenay Kaplan, Tuscarora’s turnaround last season from bottom feeder to a 14-win contender was as enjoyable as it was painful. After overcoming a sprained back and fractured rib during the club soccer season, the then-freshman goalkeeper was limited to eight games for the Huskies due to two concussions, a knocked-out tooth, a pulled hamstring and a pulled calf muscle.

While the Huskies’ success has continued this season during an 8-0 start, Kaplan has morphed into an impenetrable wall. The sophomore has recorded 37 saves and allowed zero goals as the No. 2 Huskies have outscored opponents, 24-0.

“After getting all of those injuries last year, I’ve learned to protect myself better and how to go stronger into a crowd of people so they bounce off me,” Kaplan said. “I really give it up to the defense because they make my job easy with the way they work so hard.”

Tuscarora its toughest foe Tuesday in a home game against then-No. 2 Broad Run. In two scrimmages, the Huskies had been outscored by the five-time state champion Spartans, 4-0, but on Tuesday, Tuscarora pulled out a gritty 1-0 win with seven saves from Kaplan and the decisive goal by freshman Dominique Davis.

“Dominique has really been a spark for us when she comes into games, and with most of our team back from last year, she’s another piece that’s helped us gel as a team,” Huskies second-year Coach Nicole Brower said. “We take pride in not only scoring goals but also in not allowing any goals, and that defensive mindset has really helped us.”

Along with Kaplan, the Huskies defense is brimming with experienced leadership in juniors Jordan Dunlap, Maya Jankowska and Lauren Short and senior Lauren Herbine. Their chemistry has been built by off-the-field bonding sessions organized by Brower such as bowling, pasta dinners on the eve of games and yoga on the weekends.

“Our team has great communication and trust,” Kaplan said. “That helps us in big games because we’ve bonded with outside activities and by preparing for those intense game moments in practice.”

Offensively, second-team All-Met senior forward Abby Downey has led the way with 10 goals and drawn extra attention to help six other Huskies score this year. Yet for all of their success, the Huskies know the true test of their season is just getting underway. Following Tuesday’s win against Broad Run in its Conference 14 opener, the Huskies will face No. 3 Briar Woods twice, undefeated Stone Bridge once and Broad Run on the road in four of their final eight games.

“We definitely have to stay focused and come in with a mindset that we still have something to prove,” Downey said. “We have to make our opportunities and keep working hard to keep up our good start.”

The Post Top 10

Battlefield senior forward Colleen Gawkins has scored six goals in her last two games, including two in Tuesday’s overtime win against Woodbridge. . . . After a two-week layoff, Briar Woods will face No. 2 Tuscarora and No. 4 Broad Run in two of its next three games. . . . Westfield, which played No. 7 W.T. Woodson to a 1-1 tie on Tuesday, will take on Conference 5 foe and sixth-ranked Chantilly on Monday. . . . Stone Bridge has outscored its opponents 19-0, led by seven goals from freshman forward Emily Fox.

1. Battlefield (7-0) LW: 1

2. Tuscarora (8-0) LW: 3

3. Briar Woods (4-1) LW: 4

4. Broad Run (6-1-1) LW: 2

5. Forest Park (6-2) LW: 5

6. Chantilly (5-2) LW: 6

7. W.T. Woodson (6-1-1) LW: 7

8. Westfield (4-2-1) LW: 8

9. Loudoun County (7-2) LW: 9

10. Stone Bridge (6-0) LW: NR

On the bubble: Yorktown (7-1), Osbourn Park (5-1), South Lakes (5-2-1)

Records through Tuesday.

Brandon Parker is a sports reporter for The Washington Post.
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