Perhaps it was an ankle turn for the better.
Last season, Brentsville's Catharine Forst sprained ligaments in her leg during the Class 3A East Region title game, so she had to sit out almost all of the girls soccer state tournament.
But she used that as motivation to return to state this spring and now has a team-high 29 goals, including one Friday during a 2-0 win over Spotsylvania in the Class 3 Region B final at Patriot High. So the Tigers won a second consecutive region championship with Forst emerging healthy this time, meaning the junior will lead an undefeated team into the state quarterfinals Tuesday.
“It actually means a lot to me because sitting on the bench and watching my team play was really hard, and was really emotional,” she said of the Tigers’ run to a state runner-up finish in 2017. “I really want to go back and be able to play on the field, and be able to get the win for our team.”
Brentsville, the No. 1 seed from Region B with a 16-0 record, will play Colonial Heights, the No. 1 seed from Region A, during the quarterfinals at home in Nokesville, while the season ended Friday for No. 2 Spotsylvania with an 8-6-3 record.
“We have the ability to match up with anybody that’s left,” Tigers coach Sonny Barrickman said of an eight-team state field that includes Western Albemarle, which defeated Brentsville in the 2017 3A final, 2-0.
Following that 18-4-2 season, the Tigers lost five starters, including all-state player Jillian Wright. They returned this spring with four all-state players, but then lost two to injury in sophomore striker Madeline Bohan and senior goalkeeper Charlotte Davis.
Yet Brentsville remains undefeated and has incredibly outscored its opponents 75-2 this season.
“When we started picking up injuries, I got a little nervous but … they’ve adjusted,” Barrickman said. “It helps that they get along so well off the field. It doesn’t matter who I throw out there. They have each other’s back.”
One of those injuries had a serendipitous side effect, too. Barrickman decided to move Forst, a third-year center back, into the midfield after Bohan went down, and then he shifted her to forward.
So Forst, who is committed to Longwood University, has played only seven games up top, but she has amassed 18 goals in that time.
“I just got this new energy to attack for some reason,” said Forst, who also plays in the midfield for her Northern Virginia Soccer Club Jr. Majestics. “And having the support behind me … building up from the goalkeeper to the defense to the midfield, it’s just the perfect combination to make those goals happen” for Brentsville.
In fact, she has scored in eight consecutive games, amassing 20 goals in that span with six multi-goal performances.
“You can’t ask for more, and they’re [often] clutch goals,” Barrickman said after beating Spotsylvania. “That first goal set the tempo of this game, and it was all her hard work.”
The Knights missed an opportunity to head a ball in the midfield, so Forst battled a defender for possession on the ground before warding off that player all the way into the 18-yard box. As the goalkeeper charged out, Forst struck a hard ball over her head and into the net with 14 minutes, 12 seconds remaining in the first half.
Junior forward Maria Mendo added a goal – her seventh of the season – less than seven minutes into the second half with an assist from Cheyney Hite as part of a seven-pass build-up. In that fashion, the Tigers dominated possession in the midfield and out-shot Spotsylvania 25-2 (17-2 on goal) with Knights keeper Brianna Garcia making 14 saves.
“Today was probably the most disconnected I’ve seen them as a team,” coach Kylie McKeen said of her Knights, “but this is also the best competition we’ve played all season, for sure.
“I’m definitely not upset with the score,” said McKeen, who has seven freshmen starters. “I even said they probably should have scored more on us with the way that we played.”
Brentsville has won by fewer than two goals only once this season thanks, in part, to its 14 shutouts. Freshman keeper Emily Cipolla (one save Friday) has a 6-0 record since Davis suffered a season-ending ACL injury in early-May.
“We lost one of the best keepers in the state,” Barrickman said. “And a freshman has stepped up.”
As has a defensive unit that needed to congeal again after Forst moved from center back to forward midway through the season. Junior center back Emily Payne and Hite, a junior right back, facilitated that.
“They control the other two [backs] and they all work cohesively as a wonderful unit,” Barrickman said.
That defense also includes sophomore Liz Rhatican and junior Jackie Nguyen.
“Being able to trust the people behind me has helped,” Payne said. “Not having any conflicts between the backs, and being able to understand what everyone’s doing, really allows everyone to react and be proactive rather than waiting until the last minute to do things.”