Shenandoah Valley Christian Academy
|Shenandoah Valley Christian Academy||1|
|John Handley HS||2|
Handley's Natalie DeArment turned two corner kicks into goals Monday to lead the Judges to a 2-1 girls' soccer victory against scrappy Shenandoah Valley Christian Academy at James R. Wilkins Jr. Stadium. Handley (2-3) was able to hand SVCA (7-1-1) its first loss of the season. The Patriots had beaten a Conference 21 West team (James Wood) and tied another (Sherando) entering the contest.
"This is a big win for us," DeArment said. "We started the season off slow. But now we're building our confidence up and we're moving a lot quicker and have better combinations."
Despite the low score, the game was hardly a defensive battle. Both teams combined for 23 shots, and forced both goalkeepers to make 13 saves. It was also a game that saw several shifts in momentum. The Patriots held the edge in the first 10 minutes, but Handley controlled play the final 30 minutes of the half by posting a 5-0 edge in shots.
The Judges' aggressive play finally paid dividends at the halfway point on a corner kick. Kara put the ball in play and DeArment headed it into the net. "Kara lofted the ball past the far post and I just came up and finished it with my head." DeArment said.
SVCA had its chances on corners, attempting four in the first half. The Patriots were able to threaten the Judges' goal thanks to aggressive play by goalkeeper Amanda Kesler. The junior left the goal area each time and fielded the ball in a crowd before any SVCA player could get a foot or head on it.
"We were pretty sharp today," Kesler said. "We're coming off a slow start. We're finding more ways to finish now, and we're working on crosses a lot. We're defending better now and communicating better, too."
Trailing by a lone goal, SVCA played like a team determined to get the equalizer. The Patriots attempted eight second-half shots and narrowly missed scoring on several of them. With 22:30 left, Hannah Max launched a blistering shot from 15 yards out that forced Kesler to make a difficult save to preserve the Judges' lead. Max's shot was the first of three hard shots on the Handley goal over the next five minutes that came close to tying the score.
"I thought we did a much better job of moving the ball around in the second half," SVCA coach Dustin Wheelock said. "We had a lot more opportunities in the second half, but their boalkeeper made some excellent saves. We made a mistake in the back and they got the cushion goal that decided the game."
Kesler made five-second half saves. "They really came after me," Kesler said. "They came at me and I had to come out of the net and make some saves. It was really high pressure, but I love playing in those kinds of situations."
"She's the best goalkeeper in the conference," Handley coach John Lynch said. "She puts a lot of time into training and that's why she plays at such a high level. She's aggressive, she makes smart decisions, and she wins the ball when she needs to."
The Judges got a little relief with 14 minutes to play when another corner kick by Johnson was deflected by SVCA goalkeeper Cori Whisenant. DeArment blased the ricochet past Whisenant to put Handley up 2-0. "I don't really remember much about my second goal," DeArment said. "I just saw the ball on a rebound and put it in the net."
The Patriots did not go down without a fight. With 5:25 remaining, they finally beat Kesler. Hannah Max scored from 15 yards out off a corner kick by Sarah Max. "I knew we needed a goal and Sarah made a great play on the corner kick," Hannah Max said. "I just shot it into the goal. This was a very intense game and their keeper is really good. We had a lot of opportunities but she really did a great job of keeping us out of her net."
SVCA continued to press hard, but Kesler and the Handley defense were more than enough to prevent the Patriots from scoring the tying goal.
Written by: Jerry Holsworth