BROADWAY — Kristen Atwood lifted her hands in celebration from the south end of the field as her teammates swarmed her sister, Kayla, in celebration on the other end.
Kayla Atwood — a junior forward for Broadway — wouldn’t call it a sigh of relief, but it sure felt like one across the BHS home stands when she delivered a goal into the right side of the net in the 64th minute.
“It definitely gave the team more confidence and it kind of just gave us a boost to keep going,” she said.
Atwood’s strike off an assist from Ellen Witmer was enough to lift the top-seeded Gobblers to a 1-0 win over fifth-seeded Turner Ashby in the Valley District girls soccer semifinals at BHS on Wednesday.
It was Broadway’s third time defeating the Knights this season, but by far the closest after defeating them by a combined score of 6-0 in their first two meetings.
“It’s hard to beat a team three times,” Gobblers first-year coach Amy Cerelli said. “We knew that they’re playing for their season. We’ve already made it to regionals. They had a little more to play for than we do. We really wanted to win the district tournament, really wanted to play Waynesboro again. We had to make that a priority.”
With the victory, Broadway earned a rematch with Waynesboro — a team it split with in their two regular-season meetings — in the district championship on Friday at Harrisonburg High School.
Despite already clinching a berth in next week’s Region 3C tournament by winning the district’s regular-season crown, Kristen Atwood said winning the tournament and avenging a 1-0 loss to the Little Giants on April 26 is important to the Gobblers.
“It’s really exciting that we finally made it,” she said. “It’s been a long time coming and I’m excited that we’re finally here.”
Getting there didn’t come easy for Broadway as Turner Ashby showed all of the reasons it has found late-season success after poor play for a majority of the regular season.
The Knights’ physicality on defense and the play of sophomore goalkeeper Meredith Bowers made things tough for the Gobblers offense to get going and kept TA in the contest for most of the match.
“We didn’t make many mistakes at all,” Turner Ashby coach Jon McClure said. “I think we defended really well as an entire unit — not just our backline — our entire team. We were organized getting the ball forward, kept it in the midfield. We didn’t make things easy for them in the midfield, which is where they’re very strong. We stuck to a plan and we played well.”
Early on, the physical play wore down Broadway as it missed opportunities to score and opened chances for the Knights on the other end.
Both teams exchanged periods of controlling possession throughout the first half, but ultimately went into the break scoreless.
“We’re trying to play our game and not get bogged down by the physical play,” Cerelli said. “We had to come out of it and play how we know how to play; can’t let it frazzle you. It was frazzling them a little bit certainly in the first half. Luckily, we got a goal. It could’ve gone both ways. I think they came together and they stepped up a little bit. That made the difference.”
For the two goalkeepers, the defensive focus for both teams naturally put more pressure on them.
As each minute passed in the second half, both goalkeepers said the intensity increased.
“It’s pretty stressful, but I have to understand that I have to keep myself calm,” Kristen Atwood said. “If they score, then they’re up and our team will get down and drop their heads. I have to stay confident and composed so the rest of my team is composed.”
Kristen Atwood’s calm demeanor was evident as the Knights got a couple of second-half shots that were all stopped by the senior goalkeeper while her sister continued to put pressure on the other end with her speedy ability as a forward.
In the end, Kayla Atwood’s goal just inside the penalty box with 17:36 remaining proved to be the difference.
“As long as we get one on the board, it gives us confidence and we can keep pushing,” Kristen Atwood said. “That was good.”
Bowers finished with 10 saves in the loss for Turner Ashby (4-11-3) while Atwood had four for the Gobblers (13-3-1).
“Meredith has been huge,” McClure said. “She’s one of the best goalkeepers around. She does the little things right that a lot of people don’t recognize. She’s a huge part of the backbone of our team.”
Despite the loss, the Knights’ season isn’t over as they’ll take on Rockbridge County on Friday in the district consolation match at 5:30 p.m. at Harrisonburg.
“I think we’re pretty confident right now,” Bowers said. “We’re just excited to play Rockbridge. I think we just realized we have to win now. If we don’t win, we’re out. We’re mad about our earlier losses so we definitely have motivation.”
After a thrilling 1-0 win over Fort Defiance in the district quarterfinals Tuesday followed by a strong showing against the league’s top team one night later, McClure said his team is playing its best at the right time.
As they went through the line shaking hands with the Broadway players, he reminded his players to “keep your heads up, chins up.”
“It’s all about momentum,” McClure said. “Think about how well we played last night. We dug in and won a game last night. Less than 24 hours later, we come back and play the best team in the Valley to a great game. Now we get to play another game on Friday night after a day’s rest. We’re on the up. We’re in a good direction.”
The Gobblers are also in a good direction as they’re now inching closer to finally being at full health and have won four in a row since the loss to Waynesboro last month.
They’ll have a chance to avenge that on Friday at 5:30 p.m in the district championship at HHS.
“Historically, Waynesboro is a very strong team, physically strong,” Cerelli said. “They’re usually fast and like to play it on the wing and never give up. We hope that we can do the same thing. We’re sort of a similar team. We’re excited to play them.”
After the final whistle was blown and the Broadway fans were able to relax as they filed toward the exit, Kayla Atwood said she recognized the importance of her goal and what it meant for the team.
With her sister by her side, she said it was another just boost of confidence for a team that is oozing with it at the perfect time of the season.
“We’re pretty confident,” Kayla Atwood said. “I think we’re playing pretty well. We improved throughout the season. We’re pretty excited — but nervous — but excited.”