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Kettle Run ‘decks’ Brentsville in Conference 27 girls soccer semifinals

Wednesday, May. 28 | By Jeff Malmgren
Kettle Run's Taylor Decker scored three goals Wednesday during a 4-1 win over Brentsville in the semifinals of the Conference 27 tournament. --Fauquier Times Staff Photo/Randy Litzinger
“Unlucky” is one of the signature sideline sayings of Sean Weddell, Brentsville’s uber-encouraging girls soccer coach.

A nice cross that barely misses the foot of a teammate: Unlucky.

A good run up the field derailed by a bad bounce: Unlucky.

A strong shot that ricochets off the crossbar to spoil a scoring opportunity: Unlucky.

The latter happened three times in a span of 15 minutes Wednesday during the Tigers’ 4-1 loss to the Kettle Run Cougars.

“It’s unlucky. That’s the best way to say it,” Weddell said after the Conference 27 tournament semifinal match at Brentsville. “It’s a game of inches.”

Along with those three shots rejected by the crossbar during the second half, the Tigers missed nearly a half dozen shots that rolled only a foot wide of the goal.

Conversely, Taylor Decker had perfect placement for Kettle Run, which helped the Cougars turn a close match, 2-1, into a blowout. The senior midfielder finished with a hat trick, scoring a pair of goals between the crossbar and the raised hands of Brentsville’s goalkeeper while converting another goal that miraculously sneaked between the keeper and the right post.

That hat trick was Decker’s first of the season, and it came at an ideal time as the third-seeded Cougars (9-5-2) upset No. 2 Brentsville (6-6-0) to advance to the conference title match and qualify for the Class 3A East Region tournament.

“It’s really exciting,” Decker said.

Kettle Run qualified for a region tournament each of the past four seasons but went 0-4 once there.

“It’s just a matter of getting” a win now, Cougars coach Elizabeth Martin said.

The Cougars will begin region play Monday after trying to win the conference championship match Friday against the winner of a semifinal match between Culpeper and Spotsylvania.

With Decker’s play peaking alongside fellow midfielder Erika Blevins, Kettle Run could be tough to beat.

She found special motivation to produce Wednesday against the Tigers.

With the match tied, 1-1, and 14 minutes, 15 seconds remaining in the first half, Decker and Brentsville’s Maddie Stanley converged near midfield. Decker felt that Stanley then made a “dirty play," so she confronted the Brentsville player nose-to-nose. A referee separated them without issuing yellow cards, but the sequence sparked a fire in Decker.

“It wasn’t my most sportsmanlike moment,” she said of her reaction. “But that just pumped me up. I had a lot of adrenaline in me after that. I wanted to beat them.”

The first half ended in the 1-1 tie, but Decker scored her first goal during the second minute of the second half. She tracked down a through ball from Lauren Schlenker, who scored Kettle Run’s first goal, and then split a pair of Brentsville defenders to create an open shot. Decker then kicked the ball over the hands of a leaping Tigers keeper, Abby Ferson, to give the Cougars a 2-1 lead.

“Excellent finishing. It’s a characteristic of a good player,” Weddell said. “She definitely showed up to play today.”

Two minutes later, Brentsville’s Hope Fatheree tried to respond with a shot from about 25 yards out. However, her strong strike from the right side ricocheted off the cross bar.

Two minutes after that near-miss, Fatheree walked near the Tigers’ sideline as Brentsville set up for a throw-in. A Tigers assistant coach said to Fatheree, “Hey, do that again,” referring to her quality shot on goal.

Fatheree took the advice too literally. Along the end line, she dribbled between a defender's legs to set up a shot from about 20 yards out. Again, it bounced off the crossbar.

“Oh my gosh, that was scary,” Decker said of the shots. “If they would have put them in, it would have been an even game, and we would have been back-and-forth.”

Fatheree (one goal in the first half) also nearly scored along the end line with 26:48 remaining in the second half by chipping a ball over a defender and Jackie Doores, Kettle Run’s goalkeeper. Doores however, spun around and retreated to catch the ball before it landed in the goal.

“It was worrisome there for a minute,” Martin said. “That’s just how Brentsville is – they’re relentless.”

Regardless, the Tigers didn’t score, and little more than three minutes later, Decker produced her second goal. Brentsville had three opportunities to clear the ball by knocking it out of Kettle Run’s passing lanes, but the Cougars regained possession each time. Decker corralled the last clear attempt, spun around a defender and bent the ball just inside the right post to give Kettle Run a 3-1 lead.

“You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take, so I just took it and was hopeful,” she said. “It sounds kind of corny, but my foot just does the work and [the ball] goes where I want it.”

Later, with 17:03 remaining, Brentsville’s Skylar Dowell tracked down a through ball from Allie Angell only to hit the crossbar with a shot on a one-on-one opportunity against Doores.

“It’s relief,” Doores said of her feeling upon hearing a ball bounce off the crossbar. “It’s an awful sound when it hits the back of the net.”

Less than a minute later, Decker finished the scoring by running down a ball up the center of the field, warding off a defender and again striking the ball over the hands of Brentsville’s keeper.

“This game, it was either we win or go home and our season’s over,” Decker said. “So I think that really pushed everyone to want to give it their all. … I think this is the best game that we’ve played.”

Kettle Run lost to Brentsville earlier this month, 2-0, at home after beating the Tigers, 3-1, on the road in April.

“That second game, I think we came out with our heads too high – a little bit cocky,” Martin said. “We came out tonight knowing we had something to prove. … We had to take it to the next level to beat them.”

With only one senior on their roster, the Tigers improved during the second half of this season. So, Wednesday, they produced nearly as many scoring opportunities (16 shots, 7 on goal) as Kettle Run (19, 8).

“It was cool to see those plays develop,” Weddell said. “It didn’t go the way we wanted it to, but at least the opportunities were there.”

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