Playing second half catch-up can be challenging and emotionally taxing for any athletic team. That was certainly the case for the Woodson High girls’ lacrosse squad in its gut-wrenching, 14-13, state title game loss to Western Albemarle last Saturday night at Westfield High School in Chantilly.
“It was an emotional rollercoaster,” said Woodson senior defender Kemi Iko following the game.
The Cavaliers, with the title game loss, finished the season at 15-5. Earlier in the postseason, Woodson captured the Patriot District tournament title before going on to reach the Northern Region finals where it lost to Langley. But by reaching the region championship game, Woodson automatically qualified for the eight-team state tournament. There, the Cavaliers won their first two games, including a come-from-behind, 13-10 victory over Loudoun Valley in a semifinals game played June 8 at Westfield.
“It’s just been an amazing ride,” said Woodson coach Meaghan O’Leary, of her team’s success in the postseason. “We expected to be [in the state finals] and always wanted to be here. We were still playing on the final day of the season. I’m real proud of my team. We really had an amazing season and used everyone’s talent to their potential.”
In the state semifinals win over Loudoun Valley, Woodson trailed 10-6 with just under 17 minutes remaining in the second half before storming back with seven consecutive goals to close out the game and advance to last Friday’s finals.
In the championship, Woodson fell into the same second half hole, when it found itself trailing Western Albemarle (Crozet, Va.) by the same 10-6 score with less than 16 minutes remaining.
“I tried to calm the girls down,” said O’Leary, of her team’s four-goal deficit. “We wanted to stay positive and relaxed.”
As they had against Valley, the Cavaliers once again rallied, ultimately tying the Warriors at 11-11 on a goal by freshmen attack Laura Dunn with eight minutes, 52 remaining. The comeback Cavaliers were at it again.
But Woodson could not maintain the momentum once it got back to even as Albemarle answered with a pair of scores over the next one minute and 20 seconds to regain the lead at 13-11.
Later, with less than four minutes remaining, the Warriors scored again to go ahead 14-11.
Woodson, however, would not go down easy. It got within 14-12 when senior attack Rachel Obregon came from behind the goal to score on a close-range, wrap-around with 2:58 remaining. Less than a minute later, the Cavaliers closed within 14-13 when sophomore attack Elena Obregon, Rachel’s younger sister, moved from behind the net with the ball before turning and, after faking an initial shot, firing the ball in off the left side from eight yards out.
So Woodson, with just over two minutes remaining, was within striking distance. However, two yellow cards hurt the Cavaliers’ chances in the final two minutes. In the end, Western Albemarle was able to hold onto the ball for the final 48 seconds to gain the title. Albemarle, a member of the Jefferson District within Region II, is the first non-Northern Region team to ever capture the state title.
For Woodson, it was a frustrating loss because the Cavaliers had positioned themselves to win late.
“We’ve become a family over the season and we wanted this game for each other,” said Iko. “At the end of the game it was sad because we didn’t win, but we’re happy that we left it all on the field.”
<b>WOODSON SCORED</b> the game’s first two goals to go ahead 2-0 over the first nine minutes. Late in the first half, the Cavaliers held a 5-3 advantage before Albemarle scored a goal within the final minute to get within 5-4 at halftime.
Eleven minutes into the second half, the game was deadlocked at 6-6 before the Warriors broke out with four goals over three-plus minutes to surge ahead 10-6. Woodson, thereafter, fought back to tie but could never overtake Albemarle.
“This was definitely not our best game,” said Woodson senior midfielder Emily Whitman. “Against Loudoun Valley [in the semis] we clicked a lot more.”
Rachel Obregon scored four goals with an assist to lead Woodson in the title game. Other multi goal games for the Cavaliers came from Elena Obregon (3 goals) and Whitman (2 goals). Single goal games came from junior defender Kristen Schumacher, senior midfielder Michelle Montgomery (2 assists), Dunn and freshmen midfielder Morgan Montgomery.
Whitman said the Cavaliers had great team chemistry throughout the spring season.
“It was a joy to be a senior on this team,” she said. “We clicked and everyone got along. We had a lot of fun and everyone contributed so much. We have some real strong underclassmen coming back.”