For a split-second, James Wood boys’ soccer coach Brian Sullivan could feel a celebration coming as his Colonels took on Sherando on April 5 at Kelican Stadium.
Then he witnessed a familiar sight that used to pump him up in the fall but now served as a source of consternation.
“We had a 1-0 lead about eight minutes into the game, and he made two unbelievable saves to keep us from going up 2-0,” said Sullivan of Warriors’ goalkeeper Spencer Scott, the senior he coached for the first time in the fall with Winchester United. “He dove one way to make this incredible save, and the ball rebounded right back out and I thought we had a tap-in goal. But somehow he dove back the other way and saved that as well.
“Three minutes later they ended up scoring [to tie the game at 1-1 in a game Sherando won 3-1]. That [save] just completely changed the game. I can’t tell you how many times during Winchester United season, he’d make a huge save and then United would go down and wind up scoring. Just his ability to keep his team alive with his saves is really impressive. A lot of times, they would come out of nowhere.”
No matter the situation, Scott was saving and clearing balls out of harm’s way better than ever in 2019. As the director of the area’s stingiest defense (Scott allowed only 0.7 goals per game), Scott played a vital role in Sherando claiming the Class 4 Northwestern District regular-season title.
For that, he is The Winchester Star’s Boys’ Soccer Player of the Year.
“It’s just comfortable to know you’ve got Spencer back there to clean stuff up,” Sherando coach Pat Anderson said.
Scott also ranked second in the area with 7.9 saves per game and tied for third with five shutouts en route to earning second-team Class 4 all-state honors. (Scott was just one of two players from the Class 4 Northwestern District to be selected all-state, with district Player of the Year Kris Schulte, a Kettle Run forward, the other.) Scott was also selected to the first team for both Region 4C and the Class 4 Northwestern District.
Usually, when the 5-foot-10 Scott comes up big in goal, it leads to a Sherando win. Over the past three seasons, the Warriors went 39-12-6 (11-4-3 this year), won conference/district regular-season titles in 2017 and 2019, and advanced to region tournament play every year with Scott as the starting goalkeeper.
Of course, all but the six state champions out of the Virginia High School League’s 300-plus schools end their seasons with a loss. Sherando’s finale came in a 2-1 loss in the Region 4C semifinals to Park View, the eventual region champ. The Warriors had a chance to win thanks in large part to Scott, whose play once again demonstrated why Sherando has been so consistent the past three years.
Anderson said Park View had at least six corner kicks during the game, which was particularly dangerous against a team like the Patriots. Anderson said Park View had a few players who were at least 6-2 and had a few other six-footers.
But defending corner kicks is an area in which Anderson said Scott has grown tremendously over the past year, and Anderson said Scott made his way through the trees to get his hands on at least four of them.
“Where a lot of goalkeepers go wrong is the way they judge those balls coming into the box,” Scott said. “It’s hard for a smaller goalkeeper like myself to be able to move through the crowd, still keep sight of the ball, be able to get over the top of some players and still be able to get to the ball.
“I really worked on being able to take a direct line to the ball, because I realized I had to get better at that. I went to the gym as much as possible to keep my core strength strong enough to push myself if I have to go through players. I still have a lot of room to improve on that, but I think the Park View game showed the training I had put in.”
Scott also had one of those momentum-flipping saves Sullivan was talking about in the first half, one that helped propel Sherando to a halftime lead against a Park View team that came in with a 12-game unbeaten streak (11-0-1).
About halfway through the first half, Park View was awarded a penalty kick in a scoreless game.
Anderson didn’t care much for the call, which was deemed to be a foul by Scott. (“Spencer has never taken anyone down in the box, ever,” Anderson said. “You see it on film. Scott turns [the ball] away and [Park View’s Elton] Quintanilla just falls.”)
Scott said he’s never been one to get heated over a call — he and his father both serve as refs, so he knows it can be a difficult job — so he set his mind to getting focused on the situation at hand.
Scott used both Anderson’s scouting report on Park View and the lessons from his goalkeeper coach, Chris Peter, as the Patriots’ Patrick Rivas Ayala prepared for the penalty.
First, Scott said he stood in front of the goal line for a bit until the referee pushed him back. After hearing from Anderson that the left-footed Ayala likes to shoot to the keeper’s right, Scott faked going to the left, then shifted to his right as Ayala struck the ball. Scott not only saved the shot, but he parried the ball out of danger to prevent a rebound.
A lot of keepers would consider themselves fortunate to stop 20 percent of the penalty shots that head their way, but Anderson said Scott has saved at least half of the penalty kicks he’s faced in his Sherando career. Scott believes he’s saved around seven penalty kicks for the Warriors.
Scott described it as “a pretty simple save,” but there was nothing simple about the impact the play had on the game.
“Automatically, that gave us energy,” Anderson said.
“That was really a turning point for us, especially since we hadn’t had very many attacks,” Scott said. “Getting the penalty called, we all started to feel a little down and thought the game was going to spiral out of control from there. But after saving that, I think it elevated our mindset. We felt more capable. We felt we could actually accomplish something in the game, or at least give a fight.”
Sherando did battle, taking a 1-0 lead on a penalty-kick goal by Nate Laing shortly before the end of the first half. The Patriots would tie the game eight minutes into the second half and scored with 4:30 left on a corner (Anderson said one of the Patriots’ defenders moved up late to score on a ball that was played nowhere near Scott) for the game-winner in their 2-1 win.
It was a disappointing loss, but not a disappointing effort. Scott did his part with 12 saves, and he added that everyone on the team gave their all.
“I’ll say this until the day I die — everybody on the team was something incredible in that game,” Scott said. “That was probably one of the best performances I’ve seen our team play, especially defensively. Eventually, we were going to break because they threw everything they had at us, but we have an excellent mindset on the team that was able to push us through most of the game.”
Only three goalkeepers have won The Winchester Star’s Boys’ Soccer Player of the Year award this century, and all of them have played for Sherando. Dustin Butcher (a former George Mason University goalkeeper) won it in 2007 and Rodrigo Casteriana (Shenandoah University) captured it in 2013.
Anderson — the only head coach Sherando has known in its 26-year-history — said Scott joins that duo as being head and shoulders above the rest at the school.
Anderson added that his final act at Sherando shows how much he’ll be missed.
“When we turned in uniforms, he didn’t want to give his uniform back,” said Anderson, referencing the bright yellow keeper jersey that Anderson bought. “It’s funny because that’s how Dustin and Rodrigo were like. Goalkeepers are just a different mindset. It’s like a closer in baseball or a hockey goalie. It was killing him, the idea of giving it back.
“He’s a very passionate kid. You talk to him and see his demeanor, and he’s as cool as all get out. He doesn’t show it, but he’s definitely passionate about the game. With that passion, I think he’ll be successful in college, too.”
Scott — whose pleas eventually won out and resulted in Anderson letting him keep the uniform — will continue his playing career at NCAA Division III Emory & Henry College. If the situation is anything like the one he had at Sherando, he’ll definitely enjoy it.
“It was a really special team this year,” Scott said. “I think it required every single person on the team’s will power to make it as far as we did and accomplish what we did. I’m extremely proud of everyone on the team.
“And I’m grateful to Coach Anderson and assistant coach Taylor Ruths and JV coach Joel Witt and what they’ve done for the Sherando program. It was a great experience.”