In a match with nothing at stake other than pride, the Washington Spirit Reserves surrendered two second half goals, falling 2-1 to the Virginia Beach Piranhas on Saturday at Virginia Beach Sportsplex. Washington midfielder Alex Doll struck in the opening seconds, but the Spirit Reserves allowed two goals from Piranhas forward Shan Jones in the final 45 minutes to seal the visitors’ fate.
With both sides already qualified for the postseason and home venue predetermined, the regular season finale match had no bearing on either squad.
Like clockwork, the Spirit Reserves stormed out of the gates right from the referee’s whistle. They also set a new precedent in scoring early, as Washington’s first possession from kickoff to goal took a mere 46 seconds.
Spirit Reserve midfielder Hayley Siegel raced forward with possession from the kickoff and slotted the ball down the left side to teammate Ashley Herndon. Herndon eluded her defender and slid a cross along the turf to Doll in the middle. With an open lane in front of her, Doll crushed the ball past Virginia Beach keeper Lauren Vetock and into the upper netting for the 1-0 advantage.
Despite several chances for both sides, Doll’s goal held until half with the Spirit Reserves enjoying the 1-0 lead.
The Piranhas grabbed the equalizer ten minutes into the second half when an errant clearance was picked up by Nkese Udoh just outside the 18 yard box. Udoh tapped the ball to the unmarked Jones inside the box for the easy finish to draw things even.
The prolific Virginia Beach scorer Jones was not finished, seizing the game-winner in the 68th minute on another feed from Udoh. Jones fired from distance, curling her shot away from Washington keeper Cheta Emba for the 2-1 advantage.
The Spirit Reserves had their opportunities to tie and nearly did in stoppage. Washington substitute Monica Mendes turned and rifled a shot from 12 yards out that seemed destined for the net. However Piranhas keeper Vetock made a dramatic diving save seconds before the referee’s final whistle to preserve the home side victory.
The Spirit Reserves return to Virginia Beach next weekend to begin postseason play. The first round playoff match is slated for Friday, July 19th at 8:00 p.m. ET at Virginia Beach Sportsplex. The winner claims the right to represent the Northeast Conference in the USL W-League Final Four Championship in Bradenton, Fla., the following weekend.