Though the midfielder doesn’t claim to be a fan of the pigskin, her play says otherwise, displaying the accuracy of a place kicker and the aggressive focus of a linebacker.
Both attributes were on display Thursday, when Conner recorded a goal and two assists to lead the Falcons to a 3-0 win in a Virginia AA Region II semifinal against Tuscarora in Ashburn. With a state tournament berth in hand, the Falcons advanced to Friday’s region championship against Woodgrove, a 3-0 winner over Fauquier in the other semifinal. The contest will be played at 7 p.m. at Briar Woods.
Prior to Thursday’s game, Briar Woods Coach Ann Vierkorn talked to her team about Tuscarora’s tendency to pack behind the ball and close passing lanes, making a quick start all the more important.
Less than 10 minutes in, Conner heeded those words when she lofted a free kick high into the net to put Briar Woods (17-4-1) up 1-0. Conner also triggered the Falcons’ second goal of the half, this time with an arcing pass ahead to McKensey Ziegler.
After chasing down the ball on the left side, Ziegler weaved into the middle of the field before sliding into a shot that rolled into the right side of the net.
“It depends on the field, but tonight, I was trying to aim it to the top of the 18-yard box because I saw the goalie had come out,” said Conner, who has a team-high 19 assists. “I just try to anticipate where the ball needs to be and look before I pass it.”
But the Falcons’ fast start eventually gave way in the latter part of the first half. The aggressive Huskies (14-2-5) swarmed the ball, making it hard for Briar Woods to clear and threatening to shift the momentum.
With the game still up for grabs in the second half, the Falcons went back to a familiar formula. Taking a go-ahead pass from Conner, Elizabeth Reid booted a running shot from about 15 yards out that just cleared the outstretched hands of the goalie and gave Briar Woods a comfortable lead in the 47th minute.
Next up for the Falcons will be defending region champ Woodgrove (17-5-1), which continued its postseason tear. After adjusting to Fauquier’s grass field, the Wolverines — whose home stadium has turf — went up 1-0 in the first half on a Sarah Hardison goal. Behind opportune play on offense, Hardison netted another score in the second half before Brittany Basinger turned a hustle play into a goal that sealed a trip back to states for the defending champs.
“We dropped some regular season games, but you learn from them and these girls know what matters,” Woodgrove Coach Erin Barrett said of her squad, which has outscored region playoff opponents 14-3. “With 11 seniors, we have a lot of leadership, which helps in the playoffs.”