Fighting 94-degree weather and an impressive offensive attack by Battlefield, it took two overtimes and an 89th minute goal by junior LeighAnne Baxter before the Robinson Rams could celebrate their fifth AAA Virginia state title with a 2-1 win over the Bobcats.
“Everybody was expecting us to do well this year and it was a weight on their shoulders. It is a relief now to live up to the expectations that everybody had,” said Robinson head coach Jim Rike.
When Rike walked into Robinson on the first day of school last fall, he ran into Robinson Director of Student Activities Mike McGurk.
“We are going to win the state this year, right?” Rike remembers McGurk asking.
“We are certainly going to try,” responded Rike.
Whether the Rams’ DSA was joking or not, Rike knew that the expectations were there for his Rams this year. After watching neighborhood rival Lake Braddock take the AAA Virginia state title the past two years, the Rams began to feel the pressure to win their first state crown since 2002.
“It is something that we dealt with all year long,” said Rike.
Entering the season, Rike, a recent VHSL Hall of Fame inductee, had led the Rams to eight Northern Region titles, eight Virginia AAA state semifinals appearances, five state finals appearances and four state titles.
After adding another Northern Region title last month and beating First Colonial and Woodbridge in the first two rounds of the state tournament, the Rams found themselves on the cusp of living up to all of those expectations against Battlefield on Saturday afternoon at Westfield High School.
From the first whistle, it became apparent that the Rams and Bobcats would be battling the sun as well as each other.
“I won’t forget this one for a long time because of the heat,” said Rike. “I was dying and I’m not talking from the tension, I’m talking from the heat. I can’t imagine the kids on the field.”
The Rams and Bobcats combined for 10 shots in the first half, with none finding the back of the net. At halftime, Rike made sure to focus on the Rams being able to keep their composure.
“Both teams were playing in the same heat and both teams were feeling the same effect. I basically said that whoever made the first mistake was probably going to lose the game,” he said. “If something happens, don’t lose your composure.”
In the 67th minute, it was the Rams that made the same mistake. Battlefield senior Jessica Jewell got behind the Rams’ defense and received a lob from senior Alyson Shaughnessy, then placed the ball past Robinson senior goalkeeper Katherine Yount.
Just as Rike preached, however, the Rams kept their composure.
Just 23 seconds later, the Rams responded when sophomore Stephanie Johnson’s cross somehow found it’s way into the back of the Bobcats net.
Just like that, the game was again tied.
“It says a lot about the kids,” said Rike of the Rams’ ability to quickly respond. “There is a lot of fight in these kids.”
Regulation ended with the same 1-1 score, as did the first five minute overtime.
“I don’t think that the girls wanted to go into sudden death. They had enough of the heat,” said Rike.
Receiving a ball from senior Kristen Smith in the 4th minute of the second overtime, Baxter made sure that the Rams wouldn’t have to go into sudden death.
“I was just hoping that it went in,” she said after the game. “We just came out there and did what we had to do.”