During the second half of this season, the Robinson Secondary girls’ soccer team began to realize it had to begin playing more as a cohesive unit if it was going to be a true Northern Region contender.
"It was just about getting together as a team," said Robinson sophomore Barbara Platenberg. "We all knew we had to pick it up if we wanted to go play later on into the [playoff] season. Earlier this season, it was more about ‘individuals’ for us. Then we started playing better as a team."
The results were outstanding as Robinson began to jell during the latter stages of the season, capping the regular season with a six-game winning streak and entering the postseason playing at a high level. The Rams, as the No. 5-seed in the tough Concorde District, swept three games, including a finals win over Oakton, to capture the district crown. Then, Robinson won three straight at the 16-team regional playoffs to earn a spot in Friday night, June 4’s championship game against the Stone Bridge Bulldogs at Lake Braddock Secondary School.
There, Robinson’s six-game postseason win streak finally ended when the Bulldogs, the top seed from the Liberty District, edged the Rams, 2-1.
Robinson (13-4-2) and Stone Bridge, by reaching the finals, both advanced to next week’s eight-team state tournament. The Rams will play a road game on Tuesday, June 8 against host Loudoun Valley High School in Purcellville. The Vikings, members of the Cedar Run District, captured the Northwestern Region crown this week.
Throughout this season, Robinson’s mission purpose has been about redemption. The Rams, who two years ago captured the Virginia state AAA championship, failed to qualify for states last year as a result of a season-ending Northern Region quarterfinals loss to West Springfield. So, going into this season, Robinson was determined to redeem itself and return to states. It has not been an easy quest.
"When we finished fifth in the district, we decided that is not where we should be, so we kicked it up for the playoffs," said Robinson senior defender Ali Heck.
Robinson knew it would have its hands full in meeting an unbeaten Stone Bridge team. The Rams played a good, all-around game versus the Bulldogs (18-0-2), but fell just short of winning their 13th consecutive game and garnering the region title.
"We knew it was going to be a huge game because they are a very good team," said Heck. "They hustled to every ball and worked harder than us in some situations tonight. But we didn’t play bad."
<b>STONE BRIDGE OPENED</b> Friday night’s scoring nearly 24 minutes into the game during a corner kick sequence.
Bulldog senior midfielder Jennifer Skogerboe, the Northern Region Player of the Year, sent the corner kick into the Rams’ goal area. With the ball bouncing around dangerously, Stone Bridge players attempted to get off a shot attempt while Robinson players tried to make a clear. Ultimately, it was Skogerboe who scored when she pounded a close-range shot into the net.
But Robinson tied the game later in the half when sophomore midfielder Lindsay Mondloch, off a crossing pass from teammate Platenberg, scored off the left side from 5 yards out to make the score 1-1 with 3 minutes, 9 seconds remaining in the first 40 minutes.
Less than 9 minutes into the second half, Stone Bridge regained the game’s momentum when freshman forward Ashley Herndon, stationed near the goal, re-directed teammate Murielle Tiernan’s long kick into the net off the left side. Herndon never allowed the ball to touch the ground, but struck it in the air for what proved to be the game-winning score.
Both teams made rushes toward their opponent’s goal thereafter, but no more goals were scored and Robinson’s quest for the region crown fell just short.
"We just weren’t on tonight," said Robinson head coach Jim Rike. "We came out in the first 15 minutes [of the first half] and got the better of the play, but then they scored. It seemed in the second half we ran out of gas."
Rike said his team might have extended itself physically and emotionally the game before on June 2 when the Rams defeated Westfield, 4-1. That semifinals game was the true pressure-cooker, with the winner moving on to the title match and also earning a state qualifying bid, and the loser seeing its season end.
Rike said one key to Robinson’s turnaround this season was its offense coming to life later in the season.
"We started scoring goals," he said. "The defense has played well all year long. And we started playing as a team, not on our own."
Three Robinson players earned First Team All-Region recognition this season — senior Audrey Barry (forward), sophomore Barbara Platenberg (midfielder) and senior Ali Heck (defender).