Knowing that Tori Riopelle was about to face a grab bag of shots, each fired off the foot of a Stone Bridge player with a hidden agenda, Briar Woods girls’ soccer assistant Melissa Mailley reduced Riopelle’s focus to one thing entering Friday’s penalty kick shootout — hips.
“She said calm down and just watch their hips before they shoot,” the Falcons goalie said. “If you see where their hips open, you’ll know which way to go.”
Riopelle’s technique was tested for 10 tantalizing rounds until her diving save to the right set up Alexis Haycraft’s decisive chip shot, lifting Briar Woods to a 1-1 (7-6) victory and the Virginia 5A North region crown at Champe High in Aldie.
After splitting their previous two meetings this season, the Conference 14 rivals entered Friday’s contest poised for a tightly contested battle. Briar Woods scored first on an Emma Quirk goal off a Kasia Kwitnieski assist in the 19th minute, but unlike the last game, when the Falcons (14-2-1) rode an early advantage to a decisive win, Stone Bridge (16-4-1) showed how much it had learned in defeat, cutting off passing lanes and shooting the gaps to create its own opportunities.
With just more than five minutes left in regulation, Emily Fox drew a foul in the box and connected on a penalty kick to tie the game.
Following four scoreless overtimes, the stage was set for both teams’ first shootout of the season. Briar Woods built a 2-0 advantage as Riopelle produced two diving saves. But while the Bulldogs made their next three shots, Stone Bridge’s Hailey Corpe. stopped two of the Falcons’ next three attempts.
The teams traded misses and makes for four rounds until Riopelle again found success with her shootout science. Just before the Stone Bridge kicker took her shot, Riopelle saw her hips open slightly to the right, sending the Briar Woods goalie soaring in the same direction for the save.
As the Briar Woods faithful rejoiced, a conflicted Haycraft approached the box. The senior remained both nervous and mad after sending her first penalty kick over the goal, but Haycraft found solace in knowing where she had gone wrong.
“I had leaned back too much on my first kick,” Haycraft said, “so I just made sure to lean forward a lot on the second one. I felt the pressure for sure, but I knew what I needed to do and what my team needed me to do.”
Once Haycraft’s shot sailed into the left side of the goal, she ran toward Riopelle, who instead of watching, had anxiously awaited the sound of the swishing net, signaling the Falcons’ second straight region title.
Briar Woods advances to face Hickory in next Friday’s 5A state semifinals while Stone Bridge will play Deep Run in the other semifinal.
In the 4A North region championship, Dominion cruised past Jefferson Forest, 3-1, with Breanna Mitchell’s hat trick accounting for all three goals. The Titans move on to face Tabb in next Friday’s 4A state semifinals in Lynchburg.
George Mason remained undefeated in its bid for a seventh straight state title, beating Maggie Walker 2-1 to win the 2A East region crown. Next up, the Mustangs face Graham on Friday in the 2A state semifinals at Salem High.