2023.06.06 Boys Soccer: Class 4 Quarterfinal, Blacksburg @ Loudoun County

Leesburg, VA (June 6, 2023) - Having won twelve state championships in thirty years under legendary coach Shelley Blumenthal, the Blacksburg Bruins are no stranger to the VHSL state tournament. After going undefeated in the 2023 regular season--with a roster including fourteen seniors--they had extra incentive after losing late to Jefferson Forest in the Region 4D championship. Disappointed in last year's post-season results, as well, they hoped to make amends. 

The Loudoun County Captains arrived at this match after sterling, if not unblemished, regular and regional seasons that included three thrilling matchups with cross-town rival  Tuscarora. Their Region 4C championship came as the result of seven gripping rounds of penalty kicks, giving the Captains momentum for a deep state-level run. Head Coach Chris Mazzatenta also has an experienced roster to manage, featuring a solid core of seniors and experience from front to back. 

Chas Sumser Photography was there to capture the action and emotion and posted a gallery of images from the game.

The first half went about as expected with both teams feeling the other out, looking for organizational weaknesses, but neither would threaten to score with consistency. As often happens at this level of play, defense is the name of the game--and that adage was true for both sides. A remarkable amount of the first period was played in the air, with both teams skying to clear searching balls lofted from the midfield. 

The Bruins defense was led by Addison BassCooper St. Martin, and Charles Lattimer. Their key assignment was to thwart County attackers Bryan Mora and Alex Ahedo, with the game-long duel between Lattimer and Ahedo a classic matchup.

The Captains defenders displayed the same impenetrable structure they employed in their Tuscarora meetings. Chris Luku, Landon Rahim and Wyatt Simmons locked down everything from thirty yards out, rarely allowing the Bruins inside the penalty area. Their assignment to stifle the creativity of Edric Zhang and Kai Feng was challenging, but the County defense collectively rose to it.

The best chance in the first half came when Mora managed to cut into the Blacksburg penalty area from the left side. He somehow snaked a pass through three defenders, but the ball slid harmlessly in front of the goal mouth where no County strikers were able to join the attack in time.

The second half began at the same pace, and a looming sense of overtime and a shootout began to fall over the field. The team defenses were just too good, and a breakthrough looked almost impossible.

But, in the 56th minute, Mora once again danced through the Bruins defense from the left side and found himself one-on-one with Blacksburg keeper Alden Shadle, who had no choice but to slide and prevent an open shot from fifteen yards out. Mora went down, and the Captains had a golden opportunity to take the lead on a penalty kick. Alden initially blocked Mora's penalty shot, but the ball's backspin took it into the goal for a 1-0 Loudoun County lead.

For the next fifteen minutes the Bruins staged a furious rally while the Captains defended at all costs. County midfielders Connor Campbell and Jack Martin were everywhere, making their defense even more stout, but Blacksburg broke through the line in the 74th minute, forcing a hard tackle and earning a penalty kick of their own. 

With everything on the line. County keeper Fernando Saturno set up to defend his goal. When the penalty shot was taken, Saturno dove to his left. He had guessed correctly--and almost dove too far--but was able to clear the ball away with his trailing feet, averting the tying goal and sending the Captains on to the semifinal round.

Final Score: Loudoun County 1 - Blacksburg 0 

Powered by SmugMug Owner Log In