The Washington Post

Girls’ soccer: Dominion aims for a calm approach

They call it “palms down.” The two words might not seem like much more than a reminder to avoid a hand ball, but for Dominion’s young girls’ soccer squad, the phrase has proven invaluable toward its best start in school history at 7-1-1.

Boasting just two seniors, the Titans start four freshmen and share their most accomplished player, junior defender Elysse Branton, with the U.S. Youth Soccer ODP Girls National Camp. So in his first season as Titans coach, Michael Reles thought up a simple way to quickly get everyone on the same page at critical points.

“The idea is that when kids face pressure, their hands usually turn up,” Reles said. “So saying ‘palms down’ is a way to remind them at certain moments to not be frantic and play at a controlled tempo.”

The strategy proved effective of late as Dominion faced No. 6 Briar Woods and defending AA state champion Woodgrove. After falling behind against Briar Woods, the Titans rallied for a 2-1 win on April 12. Four days later, the Titans erased an early deficit against Woodgrove to pull out a 1-1 draw.

“Games can be a mental struggle for me sometimes and because we’re such a young team, so for those tougher teams and moments, ‘palms down’ helps us calm down and stay in the moment,” junior midfielder Heather Green said. “It’s a credit to our coach. He’s implemented a feeling that we’re all a family and in this together.”

Dominion’s Elysse Branton (2) battles Loudoun County player Sarah Olivero. (Richard A. Lipski/FOR THE WASHINGTON POST)

In both games, freshman Breanna Mitchell scored the key goal, continuing a campaign that’s seen her score a team-high 17 times. Using her speed, the forward had scored four goals on three occasions this season.

“Breanna is absolutely amazing with how fast she is,” Green said. “All it seems like we have to do is kick the ball over the defense and she beats the defense to it. She’s definitely a huge asset for us.”

Mitchell’s continued high level of play along with the poised leadership of Green and her teammates will be key as Dominion begins its second go-around in AA Dulles District play.

“With this being my first year and us being so young, I’ve been careful not to set the bar too high,” Reles said. “But we’ve had a tremendous start and there’s a lot of potential.”

The Post Top 10

Several top 10 teams will face off in the coming week. No. 2 Westfield will play No. 4 Chantilly for first place in the AAA Concorde District, No. 7 Forest Park will look to avenge an early-season loss to No. 8 Woodbridge and No. 9 Loudoun County will meet No. 10 Tuscarora, which enters the rankings after tying No. 6 Briar Woods on Tuesday. Colleen Gawkins has scored 13 goals in her last four games for Battlefield. . . . Yorktown hasn’t allowed a goal in its last six games and has outscored its opponents, 46-3.

1. Stone Bridge (8-0-2) LW: 1

2. Westfield (9-0) LW: 2

3. Battlefield (11-1) LW: 3

4. Chantilly (7-2-1) LW; 4

5. Yorktown (8-1) LW: 6

6. Briar Woods (8-1-1) LW: 5

7. Forest Park (7-2-1) LW: 8

8. Woodbridge (9-1) LW: 10

9. Loudoun County (8-0-2) LW: 9

10. Tuscarora (7-0-2) LW: NR

Dropped out: No. 7 Centreville (6-2-1)

Bubble: Patriot (7-1-2), Oakton (7-2-1), Centreville (6-2-1), Dominion (7-1-1)

All records are as of Tuesday’s games

Brandon Parker is a sports reporter for The Washington Post.



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