Sunday, May 18, 2008

Madison Girls' Soccer

Diggs Scores Twice to Lead Madison Over McLean in Title Game
By B.J. Koubaroulis
Special to The Washington Post
Saturday, May 17, 2008; E09

Entering the postseason with 13 goals, Madison's Sara Diggs already had proven herself as one of the area's finest finishers. The same could not be said of her team.

The Warhawks entered Tuesday's Virginia AAA Liberty District tournament first round with just seven wins and a defense that had allowed 20 goals, prompting the coaching staff to gamble on a formation change from its traditional 4-4-2 approach to a 3-5-2 formation.

In the new style, Diggs has remained constant, recording two of her four postseason goals in a 2-0 semifinal upset of fifth-ranked Stone Bridge (11-4) on Wednesday and two more scores in last night's 3-2 victory over visiting McLean, giving the Warhawks their first Liberty District girls' title since 1994.

"It's working," said Diggs, who finished a 14th minute eight-yard blast and a 55th minute left-footed one-on-one breakaway last night. "I'm able to get more one-on-one situations where I can power through" the defender.

Behind a confident attack, revived defense and strong goalkeeping by senior Grace Rosales, who stuffed 11 of McLean's shots last night, Madison (10-5) has now outscored its postseason opponents 6-2 and heads into next week's Virginia AAA Northern Region tournament as a No. 1 seed. The Warhawks will face Lee.

The formation change "puts more pressure on me," Rosales said. "It takes away a back and allows me to play further up on my line, but it gets us more offense because we just decided to go for it."

McLean (8-5-3) could not capitalize on eight corner tries and had several crisp set-pieces disrupted by the Warhawks' feisty backline -- Sami Kuykendall, Annmarie Irwin and Katie Grasso.

Fifth-seeded McLean, which had not lost in seven games since mid-April, ended its string of upsets, which included Tuesday's first-round win over Jefferson and semifinal victory over top-seed and fourth-ranked W.T. Woodson (11-2-2) Wednesday.

Madison senior forward Blake Krejci finished a two-on-one fast break offering from freshman midfielder Katy Colas with a right-footed 15-yard boot for a 2-0 lead in the 28th minute before McLean freshman midfielder Andie Romness (four goals, nine assists) answered with a ground-skimming 25-yarder that caught the Warhawks off-guard and cut the lead to 2-1 in the 33rd minute.

Seven minutes after Diggs's second-half breakaway finish, McLean junior Caity Flint (11 goals) cut the Warhawks' lead to 3-2 when she bent a left-footed 25-yarder under the crossbar, but the Warhawks' defense settled back, stuffing seven shots and four corner tries in the final 16 minutes.

"We just stayed together and tried to stay organized," Rosales said.

Jefferson Repeats

Jefferson senior midfielder Robert MacGregor was in full-stride, rushing to the right post all the while eyeing senior forward Bryan Blada's 30-yard high-arcing right-footed cross.

Sandwiched between two Stone Bridge defenders, MacGregor shifted into a higher gear, shedding both opponents for a one-touch finish in the 49th minute that broke open last night's 2-0 boys' championship victory over top-ranked Stone Bridge.

It was the Colonials' second straight Liberty District championship.

No. 5 Jefferson (12-1-2), which battled Stone Bridge (14-1-1) to a scoreless tie on April 18, ended the Bulldogs' undefeated season, earned the top seed in next week's region tournament and resurrected thoughts of last spring's unlikely run to the school's first Virginia AAA state championship.

"It's a little different this year because last year no one expected us to do it," said senior goalkeeper Ariel Brown, who made five of his nine acrobatic saves in the second half.

Five minutes after MacGregor's game-winner, Jefferson junior midfielder Justin Etkin recorded his 10th assist of the season on a 20-yard free kick that Ayman Abunimer headed home for a 2-0 lead.

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