Briar Woods found a hidden advantage in extreme conditions Tuesday night against Tuscarora, turning pure drudgery into pure joy. The torrential downpour that swept through Leesburg transformed the field into a giant sponge and put wicked skips on even the most routine kicks, including on the Falcons’ first shot on goal six minutes into the game.
But Briar Woods forward McKensey Ziegler read the play perfectly, tapping in a goal that had pin-balled around the Huskies’ zone . The third-ranked Falcons used another slick, opportunistic set-piece goal by Emma Quirk later in the half to defeat No. 2 Tuscarora, 3-0, in a Virginia Conference 14 showdown.
“We always go off the saying, ‘fight for every inch on the field.’ So that’s what our motto was tonight — fight for that inch,” Ziegler said. “No matter if it’s putting one toe out there, or doing whatever you have to do.”
It was the sixth straight time Briar Woods (6-1, 3-0 Conference 14) has shut out the Huskies dating back to the 2011 season, and it was the first time the Huskies (8-1-1, 1-1-1) had allowed a goal this season. But Tuesday night’s game will also be remembered for the degree of difficulty in which it was played. In what has become one of Loudoun County’s best rivalries in recent years, both teams faced their toughest challenge of the season because of the driving rain.
Only the Falcons were able to capitalize. Ziegler, who has scored 10 goals on the year and three in her last two games, showed a nose for the ball from the onset. Her score came after a set-piece that was played in from the left sideline — and her tap rolled in after Tuscarora’s goalkeeper lost her footing.
Briar Woods continued to crowd the net later in the half, a “right place, right time” approach that Quirk said the team plays with in all conditions. She was jostling for position late in the first half before a 40-yard free kick dropped into the box, where she headed it in while losing her footing.
“It makes it tricky, especially with the turf and then the high pace of the skip. You just have to take advantage of every opportunity and follow every shot,” Quirk said of the conditions. “Rain or shine, we’re going to be there.”
Tuscarora freshman Dominique Davis gave the Huskies their best look of the night with about 13 minutes remaining in the game as she nearly chipped in a runaway goal before colliding with a Briar Woods defender. But the ball rolled past the right post, and several minutes later Briar Woods iced it when senior Mia Venkat blooped in a goal from 15 yards out.
For the first time all season, Tuscarora — which entered the game having outscored opponents 24-0 through its first nine games — didn’t have an answer offensively.
“It’s a goalkeeper’s nightmare, being in something like this on turf where the ball skips. But when we get our free kicks, we take advantage of that,” Briar Woods goalkeeper Tori Riopelle said. “We put the other team under pressure, and we can finish off it.”