This past week was like a mirror. At the beginning of the season, Powhatan won a very huge game on the road, doing so in shootouts, or the second level on overtime. The following game, Powhatan fought hard in its home opener but took a tough 1-0 loss on a second-half goal. The win was against Cosby. The loss was to Midlothian.
This time, the order of the results was reversed. The two teams against whom they played to split the week were flipped.
But another similarity shone through.
Just as they handed Cosby its first loss of the year at the start of the season, the Powhatan Indians (5-4) did the same to rival Midlothian (5-1) on Wednesday, Sept. 25 in a 3-2 thriller that saw the visitors outscore the hosting Trojans 3-1 in the shootout period.
“I've been telling the team that they can beat anyone in this district if they work hard and play together,” said Powhatan head coach Stephanie Tyson, who added that, on Wednesday night, “they finally did that and believed in each other.”
“Hopefully we have a newfound confidence going into the second half of the season.”
That Sept. 25 triumph was a confidence booster for the Indians, the head coach pointed out.
“The past few close games, we did not come out on top,” Tyson said. “The fact that we faced adversity several times throughout this game and never gave up was a huge step forward.”
The Indians scored first, then Midlothian tied it up. As the Indians continued to play hard, the Trojans scored again to go-ahead with four minutes left. But Tyson noted how Powhatan senior and multisport standout Michala Taylor stepped up as captain and called the team together after they got scored on the second time.
“That was great to see from her as one of our senior leaders,” Tyson said.
Powhatan struck back to score with 34 seconds left on the clock.
The two units ended regulation tied at 2-2. Hayden Strausburg scored both goals for Midlothian, and Powhatan’s Lexie Campbell and Kaitlin Thompson tallied up one goal each.
Both teams fought through a scoreless 7v7 overtime period before going head-to-head in shootouts. But Powhatan, in yet another showcase of its season-long depth, had three players who didn’t score in regulation – Hanna Hathaway, Michala Taylor and Erin Barney – all break through in the 1v1’s.
“We have continued to work on 1 vs. 1's in practice, so I think the team as a whole felt really comfortable,” Tyson said. “It also helped everyone's confidence that Hanna Hathaway went first for us and scored an amazing goal followed by [Emily Stephenson] coming up with her first stop.”
On the defensive side for Powhatan, Stephenson, a senior, saved the ball 4 out of 5 times to help her Indians secure their major victory.
“Emily Stephenson was phenomenal once again in the shootout,” Tyson said. “Winning the first one against Cosby at the beginning of the season was huge and I think she was actually excited to be put in that position again on Wednesday.”
The returning players wanted this game a little bit more than usual because Midlothian was the one to knock the Indians out of the regional tournament last season.
“It was a really close game and both teams fought hard,” Tyson said. “They have been a nemesis for us the past two seasons, so this win really meant a lot to our juniors and seniors.”
Stephenson made 10 saves in Wednesday’s game to go along with her four game-winning stops in the shootout period.
Defense has been key to keeping Powhatan in every single game it’s played this season, as all four losses against four forces in the Dominion District – Midlothian, Monacan, Clover Hill and Cosby – were by two goals or less.
Ella Weber continues to be Powhatan’s defensive leader.
“She is so solid and steady and it's easy to see this team has confidence in her abilities and know that she will give 110 percent every play she is involved with,” Tyson said of the senior. “She has so much heart and a will to win. I am extremely proud of how hard she has worked to get to this point and can't say enough about her positive attitude and the way she leads by example.”
Alicia Dern, also a senior, has also been having a great year on defense. Tyson noted how both she and Weber have been doing a great job of helping Savannah Johnson, a sophomore who has started and played every minute of the last few games on defense, learn her defensive position.
“In goal Emily Stephenson and Peyton Tuttle have worked extremely hard," Tyson said. "I think the competition has been good for both of them. I can't say enough about the way the entire defense has stepped up this year.”
Despite a narrow 1-0 loss to Cosby on Tuesday, Sept. 24, Tuttle, a sophomore, delivered a standout effort in goal against the Titans, shutting them out in the first half and totaling five saves.
“I was kind of nervous at first, but then I just kind of got my head in the game and I was feeling good about it,” Tuttle said. “I think I did a good job communicating with my players, which I’ve been really working on. There are a few technical things that I need to work on, but I can fix them.”
She added of her defense: “I definitely couldn’t do it without them – they’re really good players, awesome players.”
The decisive goal was a well-timed, well-placed shot by Katie McPartlin that narrowly got past the attempted diving save from Tuttle along the left edge at the 18:53 mark of the second half. Tuttle had just saved the ball along her right side after straddling for it, but the Titans crossed the ball from the goalie’s right side to her left in time to set up McPartlin’s winning shot. But the Indians continued to stay in the game up to the closing seconds.
“I feel like we had two great games this week,” Tyson said. “We did not change anything from Cosby to Midlo – kept the same game plan because we felt like it worked.”
This week was also different for Powhatan due to the fact that two of its starting midfielders, Ryann Overboe and Catherine Griffith, were out for both games. In response, the Indians moved Taylor back to midfield from forward and also shifted Kaitlin Thompson to a more defensive role. Lexie Campbell played in midfield for the first time this year – and she may now continue to play there for the remainder of the season, Tyson pointed out.
“She continues to impress us as a starting freshman,” Tyson said of Campbell, adding that they “are looking forward to continuing to watch her grow.”
Powhatan gets an intriguing stretch of games, beginning with Tuesday’s home matchup with Maggie Walker Governor’s School (Tuesday, Oct. 1, 7 p.m.) The Green Dragons may be 2-3 as of Sept. 27, but the perennially strong program’s three losses have come by 2 goals or less against Douglas Freeman, as well as two consistent threats to make the state tournament in Deep Run and Prince George.
After that, the Indians host L.C. Bird on Wednesday, Oct. 2 (6 p.m.) before rematching Monacan, who beat the Indians 2-0 in their first meeting, on the road on Monday, Oct. 7 (7 p.m.) and then hosting James River on Wednesday, Oct. 9 (7 p.m.).