When Anna Diffendal sustained a knee injury in her team’s first playoff game, perhaps some soccer followers wrote off Winters Mill for the remainder of the girls soccer postseason.
After all, Diffendal’s absence meant the Falcons lost one of the most prolific scorers in Carroll County history. Winters Mill made sure the doubts didn’t linger, even without their all-star forward on the field.
Three different scorers, behind three assists, lifted the Falcons past Poolesville 3-1 on Wednesday and secured the Class 2A West championship — Winters Mill’s first regional title since 2009.
“Our team is all heart,” said Sarah Rhoads, a senior midfielder, who scored the Falcons’ second goal. “We just pushed through everything.”
Diffendal, the county’s leading scorer with 18 goals and 40 points, went down while scoring against South Carroll in the 2A West Section 1 semifinals. WM won 3-0 but lost the reigning Times Player of the Year.
All the Falcons (12-3) did was travel to Oakdale and clip the Bears in penalty kicks to reach the regional final, then take care of Poolesville at Linganore High School (the game was postponed Tuesday because of rain, then relocated because of bad field conditions at Winters Mill).
Winters Mill held possession for most of the first half, and with about 13 minutes remaining the Falcons finally struck.
Kyla Holt took advantage of a through-ball from Kolby Brown and headed down the near sideline. Poolesville keeper Lauren Penn came out to defend, but Holt carried the ball in behind her and crossed it along the goal line. The ball had enough motion to find the net just as WM attackers crashed toward the goal.
The half was winding down when Rhoads converted a loose ball after Penn appeared to make a save that caromed away from her. The Falcons kept their pressure up and it paid off moments later — Shelby Reppe netted a goal after another rush toward the net, making it 3-0.
WM coach Denny Snyder credited Holt and Kaitlyn Belfield with assists on the second and third goals.
Poolesville (12-6-1) played with more aggression in the second half, and avoided the shutout with 9:30 to go. Sarah Mullikin sent a free kick toward the goal and Winters Mill keeper Megan Alisauckas got her hands on the ball, but it trickled past her and into the net.
It turned out to be the lone blemish for the Falcons’ senior goalie, who made 11 saves. Alisauckas and coach Denny Snyder praised seniors Adara Enrique and Caroline Heffner for their effort Wednesday — Enrique played sweeper for the first time, Snyder said, while Heffner saw her first action along the bacl row.
“Everyone steps up when they have to,” Alisauckas said. “It’s huge as a team.”
The county champion Falcons advance to the state semifinals, where they’ll face Hereford on Saturday at River Hill. The Bulls beat Gwynn Park 10-0 in the 2A North final.
Diffendal’s playing status remains unclear, but Winters Mill seems to be rising up for its standout scorer.
“I told them in the beginning, this is a special team,” Snyder said. “When you look at the heart of these girls … you sit there and tell them to believe in your teammates and believe in yourself.”
Goals: P-Sarah Mullikin; WM-Kyla Holt, Sarah Rhoads, Shelby Reppe.
Assists: P-none; WM-Kolby Brown, Holt, Kaitlyn Belfield.
Saves: P-5 (Lauren Penn); WM-11 (Megan Alisauckas).
Halftime: WM, 3-0.