Ashburn, Va. — Twelve months ago, the Briar Woods High School girls soccer team decided they were going to return to the state championship game. On that same day in June 2021, the Falcons had dropped a heartbreaker in PKs to First Colonial High School at First Colonial in the VHSL Class 5 State championship game.
So when the opportunity presented itself to host First Colonial at Briar Woods in the 2022 VHSL Class 5 State championship, the Falcons were going to make the most of it.
In the 17’ of the state final, Briar Woods senior defender Kendall DiMillio found herself in a familiar position: 12 yards from the goal line at the penalty mark.
Just like she had done the day before in their semifinal game, DiMillio took a deep breath, approached the ball, and buried it in the lower 90 as the Falcons took a 1-0 lead.
“I’ve taken PKs in a lot of really important games, and we’ve practiced it all season on these goals. I just knew I could do it,” DiMillio said. “It was really exciting but there was so much time left, so I just had to stay focused.”
When the referee below the final whistle just over an hour later, the Falcons had completed their final goal: redemption.
For the third time in program history, the Briar Woods Falcons hoisted a state championship trophy, following their 1-0 win over First Colonial on June 11 in Ashburn.
“Full redemption—and to win it on a PK no less,” Briar Woods head coach Caly Bruton said. “This is everything our girls set out to do. I want them to soak up every moment.”
Getting to the final whistle was easier said than done as the Patriots had their chances, especially late in the game.
“I told them all year ‘hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.’ We’ve got all the talent in the world, but we still had to put in the hard work,” Bruton said. “Each one of them has stepped into their role and given it 110%. That’s why even late in the game we could stop all their opportunities.”
With less than 20 minutes to play, First Colonial sophomore midfielder Skylar Miller weaved past the Briar Woods defense and fired a shot into the hands of Briar Woods senior goalkeeper Ana Sadler. Then, less than five minutes later, Sadler was once again challenged, and this time made a sliding save to keep First Colonial off the board.
“Ana made some unreal saves in traffic,” Bruton said. “They were pretty clutch.”
Throughout the afternoon, for every chance First Colonial had, Briar Woods had a chance on the other end, and most of the Falcons’ opportunities were placed on the foot of senior forward Lauren Cundey, who made runs in the 37’, 47’, 54’, and 59’. Cundey’s run in the 54’ looked to be good but rattled off the crossbar as the score remained 1-0.
“They couldn’t sleep on us for even a second,” Bruton said. “Even though we eventually switched to a more defensive holding spot, up until the last few minutes, we were planning on making attacks. They still had to see us as a threat up top.”
Despite Cundey’s chance after chance, the Patriots continued to place special attention on senior forward Taylor Price—who scored a hat trick just the day before. That extra attention allowed Cundey to make her runs and allowed senior midfielder Kendall Garza to break free in the 17’.
On a ball that looked like it would outrun the Falcons’ offense, the speedy Garza controlled the pass just inside the First Colonial penalty area and while attempting to score was fouled by the Patriots’ keeper, setting up the eventual game-winning PK by DiMillio.
And with that PK, 353 days after their state runner up finish in 2021, the Falcons completed their ultimate goal, got their revenge, and hoisted their state championship trophy.
“This was our goal from the beginning of the season, but we had to take it one game at a time,” DiMillio said. “I just knew this was going to be a special season.”
|1H||17′||Briar Woods||Kendall DiMillio (PK)||1-0|