The confidence bursting within Kasia Kwitnieski as she streaked downfield during Wednesday’s Virginia Conference 14 girls’ soccer championship has been 13 games and two months in the making.
On a Briar Woods team that returned all but two players from last year’s state runner-up, the freshman midfielder wasn’t sure where she might fit in, if at all. But with her speed and budding skills on the wing, Kwitnieski knew that, given the opportunity, her best shot would yield some sort of positive outcome.
This attitude guided Kwitnieski during Wednesday’s first half, when she gathered a pass, raced slightly ahead of the Stone Bridge defender shadowing her and fired an 18-yard shot from the left side that swished into the upper left corner of the net. The goal sparked the Falcons to a 4-0 win against No. 7 Stone Bridge in Leesburg and secured No. 2 Briar Woods’s sweep of the regular season and tournament conference titles.
“I saw the goalkeeper come out some, so I took a shot at the upper 90 that I thought I had a good look at and hoped for the best,” Kwitnieski said. “That helped give us a lot of momentum early on.”
During the teams’ regular season meeting, a 2-1 Stone Bridge victory, the Falcons (11-2-1) saw few opportunities on goal through their possession-based offense. Without straying too far from their strategy and thanks to the extra space afforded by the turf field at Tuscarora, the site of Wednesday’s final, Briar Woods showcased its ability to find openings for through balls, like the pinpoint pass Alexis Haycraft threaded to Kwitnieski on her goal in the 12th minute.
About 15 minutes later, another standout freshman for the Falcons, Allyson Brown, further ignited her team with relentless play. After misfiring on an attempt from the left, Brown re-gathered the ball, froze the defender with a fake and kicked in the Falcons’ second goal of the night.
“We were pumped and came out with lots of energy for this game after what happened the first time we played them,” Brown said. “Playing up top, you have to work for every ball and be confident and that’s something me and Kasia have tried to do to help the team this year.”
After Emma Quirk made it 3-0 on a goal off a set pass from Rayven Conner just before halftime, the Falcons’ defense clamped down on Stone Bridge’s potent offense, limiting the Bulldogs (13-3-1) to just four shots on goal while often sealing off the middle of the field.
Kasia’s older sister, Kirsten, added the final goal in the 65th minute by cleaning up a deflected shot to help the Falcons avenge their lone conference loss of the season and secure a bye in Friday’s first round of the 5A North region playoffs.