NAVAL AIR FACILITY ATSUGI, Japan — They played on the same traveling team in Virginia. But on Tuesday, that kinship was put on hold as senior Marie Conner of Nile C. Kinnick and Zama American junior Aubrey Ashliman took the field as girls soccer rivals.
Conner scored a second-half penalty kick to put the Red Devils up 2-1 midway through the second half. But Ashliman got the equalizer in the closing seconds of a match that ended 2-2 at Atsugi’s Reid Memorial Stadium.
“It was really interesting,” Conner, a senior, said of facing her old teammate. She played goalkeeper while Ashliman lined up at forward for their Virginia club, Rush Nike II.
“That was weird,” Ashliman said. “I’m not used to seeing her on the field because she was my goalkeeper. It was weird playing against each other.”
No mixed feelings cropped up about battling her ex-teammate, Conner said. “You have a match to play,” she said. “You can’t let that distract you from your responsibility to the team.”
The match pitted teams with the best win-loss records in DODDS-Japan, Zama 12-0-2 and Kinnick 6-1-2. It featured many chances for both sides and “could have gone either way,” Trojans coach Rogers Pitts said.
“Kinnick has a nice squad,” he said. “We had a couple of opportunities and they did, too. We capitalized on a couple of ours, but they could have won it, too.”
Brittany Evans got Kinnick on the board with her 16th goal of the season just before halftime. Mallarie Ashliman converted an assist from Rachel Walls for her 25th goal to level it 1-1 15 minutes into the second half before Conner put the Devils ahead with her eighth goal.
With seconds left, Mallarie Ashliman sent a crossing pass to sister, Aubrey, who gathered it from 30 yards out, drove through defenders and launched the tying goal just inside the 18. It was Aubrey’s Pacific-leading 26th goal and Mallarie’s Pacific-high 21st assist.
Though betraying pre-game nerves, Aubrey said she “didn’t have doubt” that the Trojans could come back. “I knew our team has it in us.”
Their scheduled rematch, at 10 a.m. May 9 at Yokosuka Naval Base, may decide DODDS-Japan supremacy. “It’s going to be good competition. I’m very excited,” Conner said.
“It’s going to be great to watch,” Kinnick coach Nico Hindie said. “Great weather, hopefully. Great players on both sides of the field. It will be fun.”