When girls’ lacrosse power Loudoun Valley tallied five consecutive second half goals to take a four-goal lead over W.T. Woodson in a Virginia State Tournament semifinals playoff game at Westfield High School on Tuesday night, June 8, it looked as if the Cavaliers’ season was destined to come to an end one game short of a trip to the state finals.
But Woodson (15-4) rallied to overtake the Vikings (17-3) in a stunning 13-10 win. The Cavaliers, this year’s Patriot District champion and Northern Region runner-up, scored the game’s final seven goals.
"I think the girls knew we couldn’t get into a bigger hole," said Woodson head coach Meaghan O’Leary, of her team’s mindset after a fifth straight Loudoun Valley goal put the Cavaliers behind 10-6 with 16 minutes, 43 seconds remaining in the second half.
"We really wanted this game. Everyone contributed."
With the win, Woodson advances to Saturday night’s state championship game where it will meet Western Albemarle, a Region II member which defeated Langley in Tuesday evening’s first game of a semifinals double-header at Westfield. The title game, which will take place at Westfield, will start at 6 p.m. The boys’ finals will follow.
Leading the way for Woodson in Tuesday’s semifinals win over Loudoun Valley was senior attack Rachel Obregon, a First Team All-Northern Region player who scored a team-high five goals. Four of her scores came after Woodson had fallen behind 10-6. Perhaps her biggest goal came with 2:48 left to play when, moving left to right across the goal area, she sent a sizzling liner high into the net to give her team a 12-10 lead. A few minutes later, she officially put the game out of reach in the closing seconds with a close range wrap around score with 9 seconds left to create the final score.
A year ago, Woodson had seen its season end to Loudoun Valley in a state quarterfinals playoff game. This year, it was the Cavaliers who ended Loudoun Valley’s season.
"We’ve practiced and worked so hard for this," said Obregon, of reaching the state finals. "We’ve meshed well as a team this season."
Woodson received an outstanding game from sophomore goalie Victoria Vinall, who frustrated the Vikings with several key saves in the second half. Perhaps her most important save came with 5:20 remaining when she stopped a 6-yard, straight-on shot by Caitlin Khosla, who had received a long pass and was fixing to even the score at 11-11. But Khosla’s strong attempt was denied by Vinall and the Vikings never got as good a shot attempt thereafter.
<b>THE GAME</b> appeared to have slipped away for Woodson following Valley’s 5-0 scoring spurt over a 6 1/2 minute period early in the second half. The Cavaliers, who had led 5-3 late in the first half before the Vikings had gained the momentum with a pair of goals in the final 16 seconds to tie the score at 5-5, had opened the second half with a score from freshman attack Laura Dunn (3 goals) to go ahead 6-5. But that’s when Loudoun Valley, a member of the Northwestern Region’s Cedar Run District, seemingly gained control of the game with a flurry of goals to surge ahead 10-6.
The Vikings, who had won 17 of 18 games going into the state semis contest — the lone loss coming to metropolitan area power St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes School, 9-8, on April 30 — appeared to be on their way to a relatively easy win.
But Woodson did not get rattled, but instead kept working hard. Obregon finally broke the wave of Valley goals when, maneuvering through traffic with the ball, she scored off the right side, off an assist by senior midfielder Michelle Montgomery, to get her team within 10-7 with 15:25 remaining.
That was the first of seven straight goals for the Cavaliers. Following the ensuing face-off after Obregon’s goal, Montgomery took the ball down the field and sent a sizzling ball into the net from 10 yards out to get Woodson within 10-8.
Less than 2 minutes later, Woodson struck again when Obregon, on a free shot attempt, took a couple of steps towards the goal before releasing a high laser into the net. Obregon spontaneously pumped a fist into the air following the score. Woodson, just like that, was within 10-9 with 13:17 still left.
The equalizer came almost 5 minutes later when sophomore Leah Williamson, during another hard rush on the goal, found the net to make it 10-10. Obregon and Montgomery were credited with assists on the score.
Nearly 5 minutes later, following a long possession of the ball, the Cavaliers took the lead for good when senior midfielder Emily Whitman, moving right with the ball, connected on a powerful bounce shot from 9 yards out to give the Cavs an 11-10 lead with 7:03 left to play.
Only two goals were scored the remainder of the way, both by Obregon, as Woodson gained the win which put them into the state finals for the first time since 2007.
Following the game, Loudoun Valley coach Jay Harkey said Woodson was the most physical team his Vikings had faced all year. O’Leary, the Woodson coach, said the Cavaliers had their hands full in playing the Vikings.
"They’re a very good team, well coached and disciplined," she said.
Montgomery, Woodson’s senior midfielder, said the Cavaliers, following a first round state playoff win over Monticello High on June 5, had been looking forward to playing Valley again for a second straight year in the state playoffs.
"We know how good they are," she said. "They have great athletes. Teams like that make you want to push yourself to play harder."
Montgomery said her team did not panic when it fell behind by four goals in the second half.
"We tried not to look at the clock, but just play as hard as we could."