The action during regulation play of the Oct. 21 Patriot District girls’ field hockey tournament championship game between two-time defending champion South County and Lake Braddock was practically non-stop. The game was scoreless, as both teams, time and time again throughout the 60 minutes, took their turns maneuvering and working their ways toward their opponents’ goalie area.
Neither squad could cash in with a regulation goal, which was the result of outstanding defensive marking and goalie play from both sides.
Finally, the well-played, intense contest, played on Lee High’s turf field, moved into a 15-minute, sudden death overtime.
There, the game came to a quick resolution as Lake Braddock’s Ali Froede, a senior forward and a First Team All-District player this season, put the game to an end with a dramatic, 10-yard goal from the right corner area of the scoring circle. The game-winning score came nearly 3 minutes into the extra session and ignited a spontaneous on-field celebration by the Bruins’ players.
"The defense played its heart out tonight," said Froede afterwards, of her team. "Tonight was a good performance all the way through. Everyone stepped up."
The victory gave Lake Braddock the district crown and ended South County’s two-year reign as champions. Earning the win in the net for the Bruins was junior goalie Katie Coulter.
Lake Braddock players Brittany Hopkins, a senior forward and this year’s District Player of the Year, and Froede both represented their team in accepting the tournament championship trophy during post-game awards ceremonies.
Both Lake Braddock and South County were scheduled to begin play earlier this week in the 16-team Northern Region tournament.
<b>THE WINNING GOAL</b> was set up by Maria Jose Pastor. The sophomore forward had taken the ball from about midfield all the way down to the circle area before passing it right toward Froede, who tried to chase the rapidly moving ball down as it moved toward the end line area. With her angle on the goal dwindling, Froede, with a couple of defenders right on or near her, finally got within striking distance of the ball and, lunging at it, wound up and sent a sizzling grounder that found its way into the goalie box for the score.
"I think I just got off what shot I could on it," said Froede, one of eight seniors on the Bruins’ roster. "I actually thought I whiffed at the ball at first to be honest. Then I thought the ball had hit the post. It was the best feeling [when it went in]. We had won the district [three years ago as freshmen] and it was great to come back and win it our senior year."
A couple of minutes earlier in the overtime, Froede had nearly scored during an offensive rush in which she drove the ball into scoring range and blasted a shot straight on from 12 yards out, only to see South County junior net-minder Kendall Clifton snag the well-hit shot.
"When I got that shot off, I knew it was going to the keeper," said Froede. "I was very disappointed."
But she made her second opportunity in the overtime pay off a couple of minutes later to make Lake Braddock champions.
"Last year, we were 9-10," said longtime Lake Braddock head coach Diane Miller. "Our slogan this year was, ‘This is it.’ I think my kids just dug down deep today. South County is an excellent team and [Stallions’ coach] Leah Conte does an excellent job with them."
During a team huddle following the win, Miller received a loud cheer from her squad when she informed the girls they would get the following day off and not have to practice.
The coach said her senior-heavy Bruins were hungry to get over the top and dethrone the talented Stallions, whom they had defeated, 2-0, during a regular season road meeting on Sept. 13. Lake Braddock entered the eight-team district tournament as the No. 1 seed, while South County was No. 3. The Bruins won playoff games over No. 8 West Potomac, 4-0, and No. 5 Annandale, 2-0, to reach the finals. South County, meanwhile, made it to the championship game with victories over No. 6 West Springfield, 4-0, and No. 2 Woodson, 2-1.
"I think because this is the last season for several of the girls there was a real incentive for them to do what they needed to too win," said Miller.
Conte, the South County coach, said Stallion players Erica Binzer, a senior defender, and junior midfielder Cari McGregor played particularly well in the finals game to help keep Lake Braddock off the scoreboard in 60 minutes of regulation play.
"They kept us in the game," said Conte, of the duo. "I think Braddock and us both had [scoring] opportunities [in regulation]. Neither team could capitalize on them."
The tone of the game changed in overtime.
"In overtime, play was super fast," said Conte.
Of heading into this week’s regionals, Conte said, "We need to mentally be prepared. It’s hard to come off a loss like this but our expectations are high and it’s a new season."
South County was scheduled to play visiting Edison in a first round game of the region tournament on Wednesday, Oct. 27. Lake Braddock, meanwhile, was scheduled to host Washington-Lee High (Arlington) in a first round game on the same day.