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Cougars Kick Off State Tourney with a Bang

Oakton boys and girls lacrosse outscores opponents 41-11 in tournament quarterfinals.

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Oakton girls senior midfielder Ashley Kimener scored eight goals against Forest Park.

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Oakton boys senior midfielder Rob Koster lead the way with five goals for the Cougars.

The Oakton boys and girls lacrosse teams left no doubt as to the Northern Region’s dominance in Virginia lacrosse with impressive showings in the first round of the 2008 VHSL Lacrosse Championships on Saturday afternoon at Oakton High School. The Cougars combined to score 41 goals during the doubleheader, with the girls squad blowing out Forest Park, 27-5, and the boys team dispatching Broad Run, 14-6.

“It’s a statement that we definitely want this,” said Oakton girls senior midfielder Ashley Kimener, who followed up her nine-goal Northern Region final performance with eight goals against Forest Park.

The Cougar girls (10-5), winners of the first two official VHSL Group AAA state lacrosse titles, have been on a tear since losing to Chantilly in the Concorde District tournament semifinals, 8-7. Outscoring opponents 64-27 during the Northern Region tournament, the Cougars got a little revenge against Chantilly in the region finals, winning their second-consecutive title, 14-12.

“Since regionals have started, we have had to stand our ground and say, ‘This is what we can do.’ After being the fourth seed in the district tournament, we were definitely written off by many teams. It added more fuel to the fire,” said Oakton head coach Jean Counts. “When people put you aside, that has never been something that has happened, but we used that to our benefit. We just had to readjust and focus for the next tournament.”

The Cougars’ focus was evident in the first minute against Forest Park, as junior attack Blair Keffer found the back of the net 48 seconds into the game. Kimener, junior midfielder Sarah Beth Rupp and senior attack Erin Sensabaugh quickly followed suit, with Sensabaugh scoring three goals in the fifth minute of the game to make the score 7-1. The Cougars’ pressure didn’t let up as they scored seven more times in the half to take a 14-4 halftime lead.

“We knew coming in that this is a team that is fully respected,” said Forest Park head coach Bill Clark whose squad finished the year with a record of 8-8. “What I like when we play up here is we expose our girls to a very intelligent level of play. We get to see what the high level is.”

The Cougars continued their onslaught in the second half, peppering the Bruins with shots on goal and scoring 13 more times.

“I just go to goal when I have that opportunity. I just take it and go,” said Kimener, who scored four times in the second half. “I just decided to go.”

The Cougars will meet Northwest No. 2 seed Loudoun Valley on Wednesday at Westfield High School in the state semifinals.

“We have a job to do. We are just trying to get to the next game and the next practice,” said Counts. “It is not going to feel good until the last game and finish on a win. That is our only goal for the year – to finish on a win.”

<b>THE COUGAR BOYS</b> (12-7) enjoyed similar offensive success against Broad Run (16-3), but it was the Oakton defense that stole the show. Broad Run entered the contest averaging 16.5 goals per game, scoring double-digit goals in every game but one and reaching 20 goals or more in four games on the year.

The Spartans found the back of the net a season-low six times against the Cougars. Four of those goals came in the first quarter.

“We knew that they had a strong offense and they came out firing,” said Oakton senior defender Dylan Grimm.

Before the second quarter started, Oakton head coach Tony Gray made a slight adjustment, condensing his defense to take away the Spartans’ chances of getting one-on-one opportunities.

“We were a little worried that they were going to come out the way that they did,” said Gray. “We were able to make a quick adjustment and pack it in and take away the dodging. That was the biggest difference.”

Leading 7-4 at halftime, Oakton’s offense took advantage of the Cougars’ newly-fortified defense by outscoring the Spartans 3-1 in the third and 4-1 in the final quarter. Seven different Cougars shared the scoring load, with senior midfielder Rob Koster leading the way with five goals.

The Cougars, winners of three-consecutive unofficial state titles between 2002 and 2005, played Region II No. 1 seed Albemarle in the state semifinals on Tuesday night at Westfield High School in a game too late for this edition.

While making sure to focus on Albemarle, the Cougars couldn’t help but discuss the possibility of facing Chantilly in the state finals. The Chargers beat Oakton in the Concorde District and Northern Region finals this year, as well as beating them in the regular season.

“If we meet up with Chantilly, that’s great. It is an easy motivational thing for us,” said Gray.

Added Grimm: “I think that our team is so hungry because we work and work and we just came up short in the district and region finals.”