After a wide-open shot rolled wide of the goal in the first half of Tuesday’s Class 4 state quarterfinal, Charlottesville’s Joe Von Storch stayed on his knees, his face inches from the ground and forehead planted firmly in the palms of his hands.
That was a scene that played itself out time and time again in the Charlottesville boys soccer team’s third-straight state tournament appearance. In the second half, it was Kyle Lehnert’s turn to press his forehead to the grass after he beat a defender only to watch Loudoun Valley goalie Tanner Newport make a save to preserve a tied score.
With three minutes left in regulation and the score still tied, Malcolm Brickhouse buried his face in his hands and after shot ricocheted off the crossbar.
The Black Knights seemed close to putting Tuesday’s game away from the very beginning, but in a contest that featured so many near misses and two overtime periods, a player who had left the bench only moments before scored to send Charlottesville to the state semifinals with a 3-2 victory.
With 1:44 left in the second overtime period and the defense focused on Ayat Mohamed, who was tearing down the sideline shared by both teams, Rachade Kondo snuck behind Newport and easily tapped Mohamed’s cross into the net.
That’s when disbelief and frustration turned to elation. Mohamed sprinted toward the student section behind the Black Knights’ bench, his arms extended to either side, and Charlottesville’s sideline turned into a mob scene.
“I was skying those crosses during practice, so I knew I had to stay focused right on the goal and keep my head down,” Kondo said. “This feels great. I haven’t felt this in a while.”
Kondo struggled with injuries this season, and he didn’t start Tuesday’s game. When he was on the field, though, he found his way into the thick of the action. Moments before his game-winning goal, he beat a defender and had a clean look at a shot but opted to pass instead.
“I told Rachade we needed a spark and he came up with a great finish off an amazing play by Ayat,” Charlottesville coach Martin Braun said. “Rachade is a great player. On any other team, he would start, but he’s kind of our super sub.”
While Kondo will get the headlines for his game-clinching netter, Mohamed deserves a captain’s share of the praise. It was he who bullied his way through two defenders, sprinted down the sideline and found Kondo with a textbook pass.
“That’s just determination and desire right there,” Braun said. “After playing a full game, to be exhausted and still do that is amazing.”
After falling short in last season’s state championship game, Tuesday’s win was another step toward redemption. On Friday, Charlottesville travels to Roanoke College to face Jamestown in the state semifinals.
“It’s all about the culture,” Mohamed said. “Every coach that comes in here coaches us to fight for each other because if we play together as a team, we’ll be rewarded in the long run.”
With 13 minutes left in the opening half, Charlottesville’s Adam Moreland buried a shot in the right corner to open the scoring. Charlottesville went into halftime with a 1-0 lead, but Loudoun Valley responded early in the second half with a tying goal from Mason Field.
With a little more than 20 minutes to play, Lenhert converted a free kick to put Charlottesville back on top, but less than five minutes later, John Dugger struck to tie the match at two.