Forest Park Coach Tim Vaughan sensed his team needed a spark if the Bruins were going to win the first district title in school history.
That spark turned out to be Ashby Nickerson, a speedy forward on the junior varsity team who was called up to the varsity three weeks ago. Since then, the sophomore has frustrated opposing defenses and given Forest Park's more experienced players just a little more space to make big plays.
In the Cardinal/Cedar Run tournament semifinals Tuesday night at Forest Park, the host Bruins used Nickerson's speed and the experience of senior midfielder Tory Federwisch to put together a convincing 4-0 win over four-time defending district champion Woodbridge.
"Specifically for this game," Vaughan said when asked when he knew his team needed Nickerson's speed. "Ashby is an excellent player, I only drafted her onto the team three weeks ago. I don't play players unless they are ready."
Tonight at 6, the Bruins (7-5) will host Osbourn Park, a 1-0 winner over Stonewall Jackson in Tuesday's early game, in the championship. The winner will receive the county's only spot in next week's Northwestern Region tournament. Like Forest Park, Osbourn Park is looking for its first Cardinal/Cedar Run title.
In the late game, Nickerson scored the first goal and Federwisch added a goal and an assist to help the Bruins pull away from the Vikings (7-9), who failed to reach the title game for the first time.
Perhaps no two players have benefited more from the presence of each other than Nickerson and Federwisch. The senior is excited about how Nickerson's presence creates more space to work in the midfield.
"She's such a talent, it was just a gift," Federwisch said. "She's got such a fire to get the ball into the goal, it's unmatched by anybody in this county."
The Vikings did little to match the Bruins last night, especially after an early goal was disallowed. Forest Park led 2-0 at the half on goals by Nickerson and Christina Pybus.
Federwisch scored to make it 3-0 with 14 minutes 22 seconds left, and Abby Mullins scored on a breakaway with less than six minutes to play.
Osbourn Park controlled the closest game of the night to earn its second straight trip to the district title game.
The Yellow Jackets (6-3-1) used their solid passing game to keep Stonewall Jackson (6-5) away from serious scoring threats for most of the night. Katie Brennan scored the only goal for Osbourn Park on a rebound with 15:16 to play in the first half.
Stonewall Jackson battled in the second half, but was unable to convert on either of its penalty corner chances after halftime.
"It's really exciting, we're all really nervous," Brennan said about the chance to win the school's first district title. "We're going to try really hard to win, because we really want to win. We've never won before in our school, so it's a big deal."