Thirteen minutes into the Regional Field Hockey Championship on Thursday, Nov. 5 at Oakton High School, South County Secondary School goalie Kirsten Olson turned in the first of many game-saving saves that would propel her team.
After the Stallions' committed a flagrant penalty in the shooting circle, W.T. Woodson's Eliana Brown was awarded with a penalty stroke — a one-on-one duel between shooter and goaltender.
Olson stared into the ground, banged her stick on each side of her net as if to intimidate Brown before readying herself for the first of many tests she would face.
"The penalty stroke happened so fast," Olson said. "My body just moved where it needed to be. I can't really recall how it happened."
The cheering of her teammates signaled the result, she had blocked the shot with her stick sending the ball wide-left, keeping the score even at 0-0.
It wasn't the only clutch save that Olson would deliver for the Stallions.
For 60 minutes, the Cavaliers dominated the field, barraging Olson with 13 shots and 17 penalty corner opportunities, but she held her ground keeping the score even at 0-0.
Olson's stubborn efforts in net forced two scoreless 15-minute overtime periods, causing the game to be decided in penalty strokes.
As Olson's teammates clung to blankets on the sidelines, some burying their faces in them and too nervous to watch, Olson clung onto the Stallions' title hopes by rejecting two of Woodson's four penalty stroke shooters, including Northern Region Player of the Year Shelly Montgomery.
"I don't look at the player shooting at me," Olson said. "My coaches always tell me to just focus on the ball instead."
Despite the tense atmosphere, South County defender Caitlyn Kost said the team had faith that Olson could lift them to victory in penalty strokes.
"[Olson] is a little beast inside," Kost said. "We knew she had the confidence to do everything she did today."
The title-clinching moment came for South County when Kost's penalty stroke deflected into the net off the Woodson goaltender.
Not a second after the ball entered the net, the team mobbed Kost and Olson —the Stallions had just won their first ever Northern Region field hockey title.
"The team did everything I asked them to do in overtime. ... Olson was just great in net," South County head coach Leah Conte said. "You hate to see a game come down to penalty strokes, but we held on."
Kost's game-winning penalty stroke goal wasn't the only time she came up big for the Stallions.
When South County's offense was unable to generate an offensive attack, the Stallions' defense held back the Cavaliers to keep the team in the game.
Kost, a life-long defender, appeared to be in the right place at the right time throughout the game, clearing the ball during offensive attacks and frustrating the Woodson offense.
Although the sport being played on the field was field hockey, Kost attributed her defensive performance to her knowledge of soccer defense.
"I have to give it all to soccer," Kost said. "Soccer taught me where to be and how to keep between the goalie and the shooter."
Kost's defense wasn't just appreciated by her coach, but also by her goaltender.
"[Kost] is my guardian angel," Olson said. "I can always rely on her to get a ball out [of the shooting circle] for me."
The victory against Woodson marked the second time that the Stallions had defeated the newest member of the Patriot District in a championship game.
South County defeated Woodson 2-0 on Oct. 22 to win the school's second consecutive Patriot District title.
While the Stallions were thrilled to win the region title, the team will have minimal time to enjoy their victory before taking the field again.
South County now advances to the State Tournament, Nov. 10-14 in Virginia Beach.
"We just have to come back out and focus on the next game," Conte said. "It's what we've done all season long."