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Woodson Field Hockey Captures Second Straight Liberty Crown

Barham converts two stroke goals in 3-0 win over McLean.

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The Woodson field hockey team celebrates its Liberty District title Thursday night. With a 3-0 win over McLean, the Cavaliers won their second straight district title.

Shelly Montgomery, this year’s Liberty District field hockey Player of the Year, said she and her Woodson High teammates were motivated to defend this year’s district tournament title.

Many of the girls who were a part of last year’s 2007 championship team graduated last spring. This year’s team had a new look about it, and Montgomery and her teammates wanted to garner a district crown with a new cast of players.

Woodson successfully achieved that goal on Thursday night when, in the finals of the district tournament at Madison High School in Vienna, it defeated a solid McLean team, 3-0, for its second straight district tournament championship. The 2007 Woodson squad defeated Langley in the finals.

“The main thing we were looking to do was show that even though we lost a lot of [last year’s] seniors to college, we’re still a good program,” said Montgomery, a junior midfielder. “We all just really have lots of support for each other.”

Woodson (16-2), which was the district tournament’s No. 1 seed, is next scheduled to play Edison in a first round game of the 16-team Northern Region tournament. The postseason contest will take place at Oakton High School on Monday, Oct. 27, at 3:30 p.m.

McLean (14-5-2) will play a first round region playoff game against Mount Vernon. That contest is set for the same day, 5 p.m., at Oakton.

<b>WOODSON</b> has been a close knit group all season. That team-bonding characteristic by the Cavaliers came to the forefront on Thursday when senior defender Liesa Brauch, a second team All-District selection this season, had to leave the game midway through the first half of a scoreless game after being hit in the face by a ball. Play was halted for several minutes while Brauch was attended to on the field.

When the game restarted, Woodson almost immediately got onto the scoreboard after forcing a McLean penalty during a strong rush on the goal. The penalty, which came seconds after a Woodson corner try, resulted in a penalty stroke chance for senior midfielder Mary Beth Barham. She sent a sizzling liner into the left side of the McLean goal for a 1-0 Woodson lead with 13 minutes, 9 seconds remaining in the half.

“That [injury] really kicked us into gear,” said Montgomery.

Throughout the game, Woodson applied pressure on the McLean end of the field. Highlander goalie Sarah Park had several kick saves during the night. But the ongoing pressure resulted in the Cavaliers’ second penalty stroke of the contest after McLean was called for using the wrong side of the stick in the scoring box. The result was another Barham stroke chance score, another liner into the left side, with only 16 seconds left in the first half. The goal gave Woodson a comfortable 2-0 lead at the intermission.

The Cavaliers earned nine corner chances in the initial half, compared to none for McLean. Corners set up both of the teams’ first half goals.

Woodson put the game away for good in the first 10 minutes of the second half when, following another corner chance, senior forward Jaime Pritchard pounded the ball into the goal for a 3-0 Cavaliers’ lead.

McLean did not earn its first corner chance of the game until the final few minutes of the contest, resulting in a hard grounder shot by junior midfielder Caitlin Baker that was wide left.

<b>GOING INTO</b> the finals, McLean, which had lost to Woodson, 6-2, in the teams’ regular season meeting, understood it would be difficult to overcome Woodson.

“We knew we had a real challenge ahead of us,” said Summer Hardman, McLean’s first-year coach. Her third-seeded team reached the championship game with playoff wins over sixth-seed Langley and second-seed Madison, 2-1. “I thought we played an outstanding game. Woodson is a very talented team. We put our best foot forward. It was a good accomplishment to be here tonight.”

Woodson coach Becky Preston, this season’s District Coach of the Year, credited the Highlanders, who had not reached the district finals for several years, with making outstanding progress this fall season.

“I think McLean’s a very good team,” said Preston. “They’ve made a great turnaround in their program. They’re a very impressive team.

“We had the [scoring] opportunities tonight,” said Preston. “Our passing looked good.”

Montgomery said the Cavaliers’ motto all season long has been “No Regrets,” meaning the team has been determined to give it their all every game it plays.

“Before each game, we make individual and team goals,” said Montgomery. “Then we help each other achieve them. The big thing is coming out and giving everything we have.”

Woodson players recently named to the first team All-District squad were: midfielder Shelly Montgomery (Player of the Year), midfielder Becca Geist, forward Mary Beth Barham and forward Jaime Pritchard. Second team selections were: forward Eliana Brown, defenders Liesa Brauch, Marie Whitehead and Jenn Mikell and goalie Kara Halpin.

First team players for McLean were: midfielders Caitlin Baker and Elisa Enriquez and forward Olivia Applewhite. Highlanders to earn second team recognition were: defender Johanna Morrison and forward Jamie Bell.