Matthew Weiler and the Lake Braddock boys' soccer team capitalized on two mistakes against a West Springfield team that isn't prone to making them.
Weiler's 43rd-minute free kick from just outside the penalty area in last night's Virginia AAA Patriot District championship game proved to be the game-winner, as the 10th-ranked Bruins beat the top-ranked Spartans, 2-1, at Annandale.
It was a night for the underdogs, as the ninth-ranked West Springfield girls' soccer team claimed the district title with a 3-0 win over No. 4 Hayfield.
The West Springfield boys' team (13-1) was trying to overcome a list of playoff shortcomings from last season, losing to Hayfield in the district title game and to Lake Braddock in the regional finals. However, the Bruins -- who made an unexpected run to the state final last spring -- were not overwhelmed by a Spartans defense that had allowed just four goals in its first 13 games.
"We feel really confident -- not too overconfident -- but we feel that no one's going to get in our way, just like we did last year," Weiler said.
Senior Chad Taylor made the score 1-0 for Lake Braddock (9-2-4) in the 11th minute, when he ran onto a ball and scored after a moment of miscommunication between a West Springfield defender and goalkeeper.
The free kick by Weiler made it 2-0, but the Spartans drew within a goal on a Juan Pabon-Gomez penalty kick in the 58th minute.
"It's uncharacteristic, yeah," West Springfield Coach Randy May said. "At certain points and times you're going to have mental breakdowns no matter how good you are. Now do we have the resolve to come back from those breakdowns and get back into the match? I thought we did that tonight."
In the girls' final, West Springfield midfielder Amy Ballew continued to display her knack for scoring big goals in tournament games.
After scoring the game-winner in the semifinal to top previously unbeaten Lake Braddock, the junior midfielder struck once in each half to lead the Spartans to the win.
The West Springfield girls (11-4-1) will host the fourth seed from the Concorde District in Tuesday's opening round of the Northern Region tournament, and Hayfield (11-3-1) will travel to No. 6 Chantilly.
The win caps a remarkable turnaround for West Springfield, which won just five games last season. However, in one week the Spartans snapped then top-ranked Lake Braddock's 22-game winning streak and shut out the usually explosive Hayfield attack for the first time this season. The Hawks fell to 11-3-1.
"I've felt like kind of a star," said Ballew, usually a defender who scored just three goals this season before the district tournament. "I don't normally score. . . . It was really exciting."