By Tom Leiss
FREDERICKSBURG, VA. — After playing much of Sunday’s game locked in a scoreless tie, the homestanding Fredericksburg Impact and visiting Virginia Beach Piranhas decided they didn’t want the crowd to go home without some goals.
All the scoring came in the final nine minutes. Virginia Beach tallied in the 81st minute to take a 1-0 lead and Fredericksburg answered in the 87th and 90th to earn a dramatic 2-1 victory in W-League action at the University of Mary Washington.
Impact coach Jen Woodie said the two-victory weekend was great for the team’s confidence as it is still trying to mesh together at this early point in the season.
“After [Saturday’s] game, I think that the confidence piece is so huge, especially with our veterans and experienced players and our young ones,” she said. “In order to get the group going in the right direction and to really move forward as a team, we need games like this.”
She added the quick start to the season is what she was hoping for and that rallying against such a quality team to do it makes it even better.
“I think they’re a great team. I think we deserved to win this game,” Woodie said. “I can’t be any more happy than this. Starting 2-0, it’s what I wanted coming into the season. Considering it’s going to be a quick two months and it’s going to be very difficult. We’re going to play them two more times. They’re never an easy game.”
The game saw very entertaining play by both teams through the first 80-plus minutes. Both keepers played strong and shut the door on any scoring chances that happened to slip through the defenses in front of them.
But as the game wore on, you could see both teams suffering a bit from some tired legs after playing a second game in two days at the beginning of the season.
Play began to open up in the second half. The Piranhas’ speed on the attack was creating chances, while the Impact’s passing was creating the same in their attacking half of the field.
Virginia Beach was finally able to break the scoreless deadlock on a nice corner kick play in the 81st minute.
Emily Kittleson sent in a low driven ball from the right corner and Jessica Kalonji raced across the top of the goal area and buried a shot into the upper right of the goal to give the Piranhas the 1-0 lead.
Fredericksburg kept battling though and was able to level the score after a corner kick of its own in the 87th minute.
The Impact’s Emily Dale sent the ball in from the right side and its found its way to Becca Fisher near the top of the Virginia Beach goal area. Fisher got off a shot headed for goal, but Kittleson was on the goal line to block it. The rebound flew to Missy Wycinsky, who calmly put it away to level the match at 1-1.
Fredericksburg kept pressing and their efforts paid off three minutes later.
Nicole Marks, who had entered the game in the 19th minute when starter Carter Blair had to leave the game with an injury, raced down the right side of the field and found space in the Piranhas’ box. The defender then crossed the ball in front of the goal to a wide open Nikki Czaplicki, who finished from close range to give the Impact a 2-1 advantage.
Marks, who arrived late for game due to a previous commitment, was happy she could come on and help the team, particularly when it came to the game-winning play.
“My foot skills aren’t really the best, but I was going to throw it to Missy and she was like ‘No, go forward’ and they slotted the ball through and I got a good touch on it and crossed and Nikki made me look good finishing it.…Couldn’t ask for anything better.”
Woodie said having a player with Marks’ athletic ability and reliability that could come off the bench and just fill Blair’s roll without there being any drop-off was a huge key for her team.
“I’m always going to know what I’m going to get from her,” Woodie said. “She’s not the crafty player, but she’s solid, she makes good decisions and she’s like a calming force in the back.”
Sunday’s result against a physical and fast-paced team like Virginia Beach was a sign of good things to come for the Hotspur, according to Woodie.
“They’ve always been that way and I think that’s awesome to play against. It forces you to play quicker and to really rethink the game,” she said. “I think [Saturday] we really had a lot of time on the ball and then today there’s someone on you within one or two touches. So, completely different and I’m happy just to see how [we] adapted to that.”
Fredericksburg is now off until Saturday, June 2, when they hit the road to take on the Northern Virginia Majestics at 7 p.m. at Hellwig Memorial Field Stadium in Manassas, Va.