Caroline Meier bent over slowly, her hands grabbing her sweaty knees as she shook her head in disbelief.
The McLean sophomore had just rocketed a long shot with enough power and accuracy to swish into the net during the second half of Tuesday’s match against South Lakes. But standing in the way was another sophomore, South Lakes goalkeeper Sara Vigen, whose diving deflection with an outstretched hand kept her team alive in a key Virginia AAA Liberty District clash in McLean.
Most of Tuesday’s match played out this way, with the Highlanders’ strong offense largely stymied by South Lakes’ swarming defense. The result was a 1-1 tie between two of the district’s best.
“I thought we possessed the ball well and we never gave up, and this whole season we’ve never given up,” said Vigen, who had 14 saves. “We wanted it just as much as them. We just couldn’t get that one extra goal.”
Initially, it was McLean (5-2-2, 2-0-1 AAA Liberty District) that controlled the offensive flow. The Highlanders fired shot after shot at Vigen until Marie Shine scored her team-high ninth goal in the game’s 16th minute. South Lakes nearly responded about six minutes later when the ball squirted near the goal during a scrum, but McLean’s defense was able to clear it away.
In the second half, South Lakes (6-1-2, 1-0-2) drove the tempo, turning high pressure on the defensive end into transition opportunities down the sidelines. Following Vigen’s tough save on Meier’s shot, the Seahawks were able to turn downfield and get behind McLean’s defense. As the ball rolled into the 18-yard box, Karen Reyes sped forward to beat the goalkeeper to the ball and knock a shot ahead into the open net, tying the score with less than 15 minutes remaining.
McLean found itself with a chance to push ahead in the first overtime period, but another hard shot, this time by Haley Mennes, was turned away by Vigen.
“Every team in this district is going to play hard and it’s going to be a physical, hard-fought game every time,” McLean Coach Rob Bouchard said. “Our spacing and our touch were good in the first half, but I think we got a little restless and South Lakes pressured every chance they got. An effort like that on both sides is what you’re going to get every night in this district and that’s what it’s going to take to keep up with the other tough teams.”