Olivia Klopp and Erin May, senior leaders on the Broad Run girls' soccer team, tried at the beginning of the season to downplay games against Potomac Falls when talking with some of their younger teammates. In an effort to take the pressure off, Klopp and May told their teammates that facing the Panthers was "just another game."
But there's very little mundane or ordinary about the Broad Run-Potomac Falls rivalry, in which familiarity has bred friendship and respect. And if the two teams reach the Virginia AA championship game next weekend in Radford, something that wouldn't surprise either side, it would produce the fifth -- and most important -- meeting of the season.
"At this point in the season, we're playing every week," Potomac Falls Coach Kris Kelican said. "The teams are very even, and it could come down to one lucky bounce or one mistake."
Very little separates the teams, and the ways in which they are intertwined have helped keep the rivalry healthy.
Klopp and defender Kathryn Andricosky are club soccer teammates of Potomac Falls's Lauren Malan, Toni Dionne and Hayley Pasko. That team is coached by Randy May, Erin's father and the boys' soccer coach at West Springfield.
Klopp refers to Malan as one of her best friends, and the two sweepers often have caught themselves monitoring each other's play during high school games.
"I'll sometimes see something and say, 'Come on, Malan, you can do better than that,' " Klopp said. "And then I'll take down one of her players, and she'll yell across the field to me, 'Take it easy, Liv.' I talk to her under my breath all the time, and my teammates don't always understand that."
The coaches, Kelican and Broad Run's Claire Collins, teach together at River Bend Middle School. John Sharples, the Spartans' coach through the 2002 season, also taught with Kelican at River Bend.
And the team's accomplishments over the past five seasons have almost always been linked. Potomac Falls and Broad Run have met four times in district tournament play; three of those came in the championship game. They have faced each other in the Region II final three of the past five years.
On Friday, Potomac Falls edged Broad Run, 1-0, to win the region title and improve its record this year against the Spartans to 2-1-1.
In 2000, Potomac Falls defeated Broad Run in a state semifinal and went on to win the title. The following year, Broad Run edged Potomac Falls in the state final on a late goal that May, then a freshman, was involved in.
Dionne, Pasko and Jenna Martin played for Potomac Falls as ninth-graders in that 2001 game, and Pasko nearly scored on a header to tie the game in the waning moments. "My heart was pounding," May remembered last week.
The teams are on opposite sides of the bracket in the Virginia AA tournament and wouldn't meet unless they each won two games -- far from a stretch.
"It's ironic we would have to go all the way to Radford to play a team that's 10 minutes away from us," Klopp said.
It isn't uncommon for Loudoun County teams to travel to Southwest Virginia just to face one another in the state tournament. The Park View softball team played Broad Run in 2000 and '02 in Salem and last spring met Loudoun Valley in the Virginia AA final in Radford.
As with softball, any mystery involved in game plans or execution has been stripped away by this point of the season.
When Potomac Falls played Charlottesville and Brentsville in the first two rounds of the Region II tournament, "they had no clue how we were going to play," Malan said. "But when we play Broad Run, we know every play they're going to run, just like they know every one of ours."