Following a tough midseason stretch that saw Briar Woods’s undefeated start halted by two losses in a four-game span, the Falcons decided to change their approach.
Rather than finding ways to counter opponents’ strengths, the area’s seventh-ranked team focused on maximizing its own talents to take control.
Perhaps that’s why most of the Falcons had no idea that Thursday’s opponent, No. 10 Loudoun County, had allowed just three goals all season. For Briar Woods, the focus was on switching the ball and unbalancing the Raiders’ stingy defense, a strategy that resulted in a 4-1 victory in Aldie.
“Before those losses, we used to pick other players apart and try to work against their strengths,” said McKensey Ziegler, one of four Falcons to score on the night. “But we cut that out, and now we work as a team and play to our own strengths, which has made a difference.”
The contest began with both teams finding their share of opportunities on offense. Briar Woods (11-2-1, 6-0-1 AA Dulles District) capitalized in the 12th minute when Emma Quirk weaved through the Raiders’ defense before dropping a pass to Elizabeth Reid on the left side. With no one but the goalie in front of her, Reid deposited a shot into the right corner to put Briar Woods ahead, 1-0.
The second half brought a more aggressive Loudoun County (9-1-3, 5-1-1) attack, fueled by sound passing and spacing on the field.
After one shot knocked off the hands of the Briar Woods goalie, Emily Littell swooped in and rocketed a goal into the net to tie the score in the 43rd minute.
The Falcons would respond by using lofting precise passes over the Raider defense, igniting a transition attack. In the 54th minute, Rayven Connor scored her eighth goal of the season off a deflection in front of the net.
Two minutes later, defender Tori Panzica sparked her team by pushing the ball out of Falcon territory and up the field for a breakaway. After drawing in and blowing by several Loudoun County defenders, Panzica dropped the ball off to Ziegler, who netted her team-high 11th goal.
“I was honestly in shock when [Panzica] kept going upfield with the ball,” Falcons Coach Ann Vierkorn said with a laugh. “But once she made it through the defense and near the box, I figured you might as well let her go all the way at that point. That really got our team going.”
Kristen Kwitnieski finished off the scoring in the game’s 76th minute, gathering a rebound before shooting a laser into the net to keep the Falcons unbeaten in AA Dulles District play.