While her teammates caught their breath during halftime of Tuesday’s girls’ soccer contest against Woodgrove, Tuscarora (Va.) goalie Jackie McKenna trotted out to the middle of the goal for a quick practice set.
As McKenna readily bounced on her toes, two assistant coaches fired shots from both sides of the field, testing the quickness of their senior goalkeeper for what was sure to be a tough second half.
The extra reps paid off during a late-game sequence when McKenna jumped, dove and kicked to deflect three shots and help No. 10 Tuscarora preserve a 1-0 victory in Leesburg.
“That was the hardest game I’ve had to play all season,” said McKenna, still trying to catch her breath after tallying 13 saves. “I just try to stay focused on the ball and constantly stay on my toes so that I’m ready for anything that comes my way.”
Tuscarora (10-0-4, 4-0-2 AA Dulles District) helped its cause early by capitalizing on its first shot. Abby Downey scored her team-high 12th goal in the 11th minute off an assist from Annie Hartman on a quick shot from the center of the goalie box.
The Huskies saw few scoring opportunities thereafter, as Woodgrove dominated possession with its quickness and ability to clear balls ahead of the defense. Twice the Wolverines (10-4-1, 4-2-1) had open breakaways thwarted by McKenna.
“Woodgrove likes to play through balls because of their speed and Jackie made great decisions all night long in defending them,” Huskies Coach Nicole Brower said. “I have a lot of confidence in our whole back four defense, but honestly, against a team like Woodgrove, I still thought we would need one more goal to pull out the win, so I give a lot of credit to our defense for their effort.”
Tuscarora outshot the Wolverines, 8-4, in the second half and nearly scored on a breakaway in the 48th minute.
But Woodgrove goalie Maggie Buxton kept her team in contention with 10 saves.
With less than four minutes remaining, Woodgrove lofted a 25-yard shot from the right side that grazed the outstretched hands of a leaping McKenna. As the ball rolled in front of the goal, the Wolverines scrambled for the rebound, but McKenna recovered in time to slide and kick it away, securing a regular season sweep of Woodgrove.
“This is a major win for us against the defending state champs,” McKenna said.
“Now, we just need to keep going all out in our last two games and in the playoffs because as seniors we want this to be our year to win it all.”