The fourth-ranked Chantilly girls’ soccer team faced what appeared to be a dire situation late in the second half of its Virginia AAA Concorde District opener on Tuesday night. No. 7 Robinson, a talented team that boasts seven Division I commits, held not only a one-goal lead, but also controlled possession and the tempo of the game.
But in the 62nd minute, Chantilly Coach Melissa Bibbee flipped her team’s formation, scrapping the defensive game plan and inserting freshman Abby Gashel and sophomore Courtney Gleason to jumpstart the offense. And just like that, Charger midfielders Olivia Colella and Emily Strait were freed up. Moments later, Chantilly scored two goals in a nine-minute span and held on for a 2-1 win at home.
The victory gave a window into how Chantilly, a Northern Region power that claimed the 2009 Virginia AAA title and reached the region semifinals last spring, is coping with the loss of three starting defenders.
“Once we got the first goal, it gave us the spark and the energy,” said Colella, who scored the game-winner in the 83rd minute. “We felt like we could get back into it, that’s what made the difference.”
In the 64th minute, Gashel tied the score on a close-range shot, no more than seven yards out, after the Chargers broke through the defense on a counterattack. Nine minutes later, Colella scored on another close-range shot set up by Kayla Christian.
“They were just pounding and pounding,” Bibbee said. “Then, less than 20 [minutes left], we switched the formation and and everything switched.”
Chantilly (6-1-1), with two-time All-Met defender Madyson Brown and second-team All-Met defender Elizabeth Casey in college, was concerned about its defense against Robinson forwards Savannah Miller and Barbara Platenberg, who has played well after missing last season due to injury.
And such was the case on Tuesday, with Robinson (3-2-1) controlling much of the middle portion of the game. The Rams scored in the 32nd minute on an indirect freekick by senior Lindsay Mondlock, assisted by senior Jeannine Molleda.
“It just gives us confidence going forward for the rest of the season, that we’re capable of beating good teams,” Colella said. “Last year, we lost a lot of good defenders and so we’ve had to make adjustments in the back. And I think that it proves that even though we lost some talented seniors last year, we still have talent left on the field.”
Langley seniors Oliver De Thier and Rhys Howard and junior Justin Galiani used Twitter to follow the Saxons’ game against Washington-Lee on March 23 from their hotel in Las Vegas, where they were staying for a club soccer tournament.
Without three of its most experienced starters, Langley lost, 1-0. Since the return of that trio, the sixth-ranked Saxons (5-1) look back in similar form to a team that finished as Virginia AAA Northern Region runners-up last year.
“We wanted to come back and get our ranking back and show everyone it was just a fluke, show how we really are with me and Rhys and Oliver,” Galiani said. “We’re a team everyone should be afraid of.”
The addition of Galiani has been especially important. The forward played just 10 minutes in one game earlier this season as he worked back from a torn posterior cruciate ligament suffered during basketball season. In the last two games, though, Galiani has four goals and four assists.
“He’s been playing ridiculous,” Howard said. “We struggled to score goals up top, rotating with a bunch of forwards; it wasn’t really clicking. Justin provides leadership up front, he’s been playing great and he always seems to be in the right place at the right time. Everything goes through him up top.”
Langley, meanwhile, has won three straight, including a 4-3 victory over Madison (2-3-1) on Tuesday night, and looks to be rounding back into form despite losing 20 seniors, including eight starters, from last year’s team.
Despite giving up five goals in its past two wins, Langley Coach Bo Amato heaped praise on Howard. At 6-foot-4, the senior has been a rock in the center of a back four that is still coming together, and the James Madison recruit has also scored three goals.
The Saxons still face a Liberty District schedule that is perhaps the toughest it has ever been top-to-bottom with improved Madison, Fairfax (3-3) and South Lakes (2-3-2) sides to go along with Jefferson (2-0-4), Stone Bridge (3-3-1) and No. 8 McLean (3-1-1).
“We are not as deep as we have been, so it’s going to come down to everyone stepping up their game and not just a couple people,” Howard said. “Everyone needs to pick up the pace and realize we’re not as dominant as we used to be, but can still win the district if we jell as a team.”