Shalom Christian and Shenandoah Valley Christian played two close games this season in girls soccer, each team winning by a one-goal margin.
When they met for a third time Monday night at Shalom in the Mason-Dixon Christian Conference championship game, another nail-biter was expected. And it was ... for one half.
But Shenandoah Valley scored two goals in the first 2:30 of the second half and never let the Flames get back into it, taking a 4-1 victory to claim the title in its first year in the league.
"At the start of the second half we had those two breakdowns on defense," Shalom coach Bill Poe said. "They cost us, and we just couldn't recover from them."
The teams were tied 1-1 in the first half, although the Patriots had more of the possession. Midway through the half, Brooke Emge found Lexy Poe with a pass and Poe dribbled into a space and ripped a shot past Shenandoah Valley goalkeeper Rebekah Max for a 1-0 Flames lead.
A well-done 1-2 pass from two other Max sisters, with Hannah Max passing to Sarah Max for the goal, put the score at 1-1 with 12:40 left in the half.
Shalom almost took the lead just before halftime. The Flames were awarded a series of four consecutive corner kicks in a span of about a minute, and Emge nearly made the Patriots pay. But her shot rang off the post and bounced away.
Shenandoah Valley coach Dustin Wheelock said, "Defending corners is not one of our strengths, so I was a little concerned there."
He was able to relax shortly after the second half started.
Just 52 seconds after the break, the Patriots' Abi Beaty got to a loose ball and knocked in a goal. A minute and 20 seconds later, Hannah Max scored on a pass from Sarah Max. Less than five minutes later, Sarah Max hit a shot that eluded Flames keeper Kylie Eby to cap the scoring.
Shalom's Lexy Poe said, "I thought we started out strong, but then they had more intensity. We could have played better tonight, but I'm just proud of our team - I couldn't have asked for a better team to be on for my senior year."
"It was a great season, but Shenandoah is a really good team," Bill Poe said. "We had two hard-fought games with them, but tonight it was not meant to be."
One reason for that was that the Patriots controlled the midfield and the possession, which did not allow the Flames to get into the style of play they wanted.
Wheelock said, "Shalom is really good on the counter, so if you play a big-ball game against them, they can hurt you. We tried to keep the ball on the ground. That's the style of play we've grown into as the season has gone on."
It was a style that brought them a nice, big trophy.