Every time it looked as if the Westfield High Bulldogs were going to take control of their Concorde District tournament girls' lacrosse finals game against Oakton last Friday evening, May 14, the Cougars would rally with a few goals to get right back into the game. But in the end, it was Westfield, the tournament's No. 2 seed, which was able to fend off top seed Oakton in a high-scoring, exciting 16-13 Bulldogs' victory. The title game took place at Chantilly High School.
"Westfield played wonderfully," said Oakton head coach Jean Counts, afterwards. "Our girls didn't play our normal game. We made mistakes."
The contest, which started at 5:30 as part of a girls-boys' district championship double-header, saw a stoppage in play with less than two minutes remaining in the first half when a hail storm hit the area. The game officials halted play at once and both teams left the stadium. Spectators also scattered to their cars in the parking lot or within the school building.
Following 20 minutes of hard hail and rain, the skies cleared up and the sun actually broke through. Within 15 minutes, the game had resumed with the final minutes of the first half. There were no more weather issues thereafter for the girls' game, although another storm following the game ultimately postponed the boys' game. The boys' contest between Chantilly and Robinson never did get started on Friday night, and was ultimately played under sunny skies on Saturday with Robinson winning, 9-4.
In Friday's girls' game, both teams seemed to score at will early on and throughout the first half. The name of the game in the first half was breakaway opportunities as both squads, once in possession of the ball, made hard runs down the field before getting good shots off on the opposing teams' goal.
Less than five minutes into the game, Westfield held a 3-2 lead. Then, over the next three minutes, the Bulldogs tacked on three more goals, the latter coming on a 10-yard shot by senior midfielder Kim Edmondson, to go ahead 6-2 less than eight minutes into the game. Westfield, on that last score, showed what it is capable of doing in a set-up style of offense. The Bulldogs patiently worked the ball around and made at least seven passes before Edmondson's score.
But Oakton then made a move by scoring four of the game's next five goals, two of those goals coming from senior attack Jackie Alexander, to pull within 7-6 with just five minutes remaining in the first half. The Cougars, despite a score by Westfield's Shelby Romine with 44 seconds left in the half, trailed by only a 10-8 margin at the half.
Romine's score to close the first half kind of epitomized the entire first 25 minutes of play. The senior midfielder had gotten possession of the ball on her team's side of the field before taking off down the field. She ultimately made some good moves close to the goal area before shooting a high, eight-yard shot from the right corner. The ball landed high into the net for the score that gave the Bulldogs their two-goal advantage at the half.
WESTFIELD got goals within the first two minutes of the second half from senior attack Kate Almen and junior midfielder Annie Martello to give the Bulldogs a 12-8 lead. But the never-say-die Cougars came back with three scores of their own - from sophomore midfielder Carly Palmucci, sophomore attack Allison Turk and sophomore midfielder Claire Stikeleather - to pull Oakton within 12-11 with 15 minutes, 48 seconds remaining in the latter half.
Over the next four minutes, Westfield made several strong rushes at the Oakton net but could not score.
With just under 10 minutes left, Oakton's Jackie Rupp, a sophomore midfielder, made a terrific shot on goal from 15 yards out, from straight range. But Westfield sophomore goalie Tatum Roessler made a saving catch on the sizzling shot that could have tied the score.
Then, over a minute later, Westfield's Romine scored to give her team a 13-11 lead. That was the first of three consecutive scores by Westfield - the other goals coming from senior midfielder Mary Barondess and senior attack Kelsey Grainer - which would build Westfield's lead to 15-11 with 6:32 remaining and effectively put the game away. Oakton never got closer than three goals thereafter.
Counts, the Oakton coach, said Westfield players Barondess (game-high six goals) and Romine (4 goals) made things happen for the Cougars.
"Those two just had one thing in mind - to go for the net," said the coach, admiring the play of the two Bulldogs.
Other goal scorers for the Westfield team were Katy Manning (2 goals), Kelsey Quinn (1), Kate Almen (1), Annie Martello (1) and Kelsey Grainer (1).
During the regular season, Westfield had lost a home game to Oakton, 16-11, on March 18. In that contest, the Cougars had gotten the better of the play on face-offs and groundball pickups. Westfield head coach Jim Dwyer said the Bulldogs knew going into last week's playoff game versus Oakton that they had to do better in those areas if they were going to win. And Westfield did just that.
"[Westfield assistant] coach [Larry] Megale and I challenged our team to win the draw and the groundball battle," said Dwyer. "In the first meeting, Oakton did better in both. [In the playoff win] we did better in both of those categories."
Dwyer credited his 10 seniors with leading the way in the district finals win.
"My seniors played a fantastic game and really, really wanted it," said the coach. "They played very well in every part of the field."
<b>EARLIER THIS WEEK</b>, Westfield (11-4) won its first round Northern Region playoff game over visiting South County High, 23-13. The Bulldogs will next move on to a quarterfinals round game on Thursday night, May 20 at home.
The playoff win over the Stallions marked the second time this season in which Westfield has beaten South County. In a regular season meeting at South County on March 16, the Bulldogs were 15-11 winners over County.
Prior to the playoff meeting with South County, Dwyer said he knew his team would be in for a tough task in beating the Stallions again.
"We played them earlier in the season and they played a very good game," said Dwyer. "I expect more of the same [in the playoff matchup]. I expect South County will be ready to play. But I'm very confident of my team. They're hungry and they want it."