Following each Chantilly girls’ soccer contest, Coach Melissa Bibbee recognizes a “player of the game,” with the winner taking home a special token to commemorate her performance. Following Monday’s home contest against No. 7 Forest Park, most knew where one of the two pink T-shirts folded up in Bibbee’s arms was headed — Laila Gray had just notched a hat trick in the victory.
But while everyone looked around to see who the second honoree would be, Gray immediately thought of the senior captain standing to her left in the huddle. The junior forward knew without Courtney Gleason, her season-high three goals in No. 4 Chantilly’s 4-0 nonleague victory against the Bruins would not have been possible.
“If I didn’t get the balls they gave me, I wouldn’t have finished them; it was a team effort,” said Gray, who has 12 goals on the season. “Courtney kept composure, had a lot of patience with the ball and she didn’t let them push her around, and with all that together, she had a great performance.”
Gleason’s play, along with Gray’s ability to finish around the net, were vital against an offensive juggernaut like Forest Park (8-3-1). With Annah Lindberg and her 18 goals on the opposing side, Bibbee reminded her players to apply defensive pressure and play aggressive on the ball.
Chantilly freshman goalie Sara Margarida took care of the defensive side, making tough saves, including a two-handed block of a hard, direct shot by Forest Park midway through the first half.
From there, Gray took over, first sliding for a cross pass to Kayla Christian, who netted a goal on the right side to put the Chargers (8-2-2) up 1-0 in the 21st minute.
Six minutes later, Gray scored her first goal off an assist from senior Kyndall Finch near the middle of the 18-yard box.
Anna Michels took over for Margarida in goal but the results remained the same. The freshman continued to stifle the Bruins’ 12 total shots, opening up scoring opportunities on the other end. In the 50th minute, Gray stole the ball in the backfield before speeding past two Forest Park defenders for another goal. With 9 minutes 22 seconds remaining, Gray secured her second hat trick of the season and extended the Chargers’ unbeaten streak to four with tap-in on a breakaway.
“Our coach is really good about talking to us about the challenge ahead and the team chemistry we have really helps,” Gleason said. “We all have our special skills and we know how to bring the best out of each other.”