Expectations were not high at the beginning of the season for the Fairfax High girls’ field hockey team. The Rebels were a much younger team than the 2009 squad that had captured the Liberty District title and advanced all the way to the Northern Region semifinals. With nine seniors having graduated from that team, the 2010 campaign, some speculated, would be a re-building season.
That’s not the way things turned out, however. The Rebels, under ninth year head coach Amber Beaudoin, put together one of their best seasons in the program’s history. After an outstanding 15-3-1 regular season, Fairfax, as the No. 3 seed, won three straight games at last week’s Liberty District tournament, including a 1-0 title game win over top-seeded Jefferson Friday evening, Oct. 22 at Madison High School in Vienna, to successfully defend last year’s crown.
"We’re young and I think we surprised a lot of people," said Beaudoin, whose team was scheduled to meet Centreville High in a first round region playoff game on Wednesday, Oct. 27 of this week. "We have a completely different team than last year. [Winning the title last week] is an amazing feeling, especially since so many people at the beginning of the year were saying it was a rebuilding year."
The coach spent several years building up the program into a contender before, in 2009, leading Fairfax to its first district tournament championship in 12 years with a title game win over Langley.
"It’s taken some years to get the best [girls’] athletes at the school to play field hockey," said Beaudoin.
Many of this year’s players played lesser roles on last fall’s team but learned what it takes to become a champion. This season, some of those players who, in 2009, did not see as much varsity playing time or played on the JV squad, were counted on to step into the foreground.
The Rebels, even though relatively green, believed they could win this autumn, a confidence that came with last year’s breakthrough season.
"When you get into a mindset that you should win games, you feel like you are the best team," said Beaudoin. "They really bought into that and believed it."
<b>FAIRFAX</b>, throughout the season, has gained early momentum in numerous games by scoring early goals or getting a game’s initial score. That was the case in Friday’s championship game against Jefferson when junior forward Tiffany Balbuena, during a scramble in the circle area following a Fairfax corner, scored on a rebound follow-up shot following a shot on goal by teammate and senior midfielder Lauren Abram. Fairfax, midway through the first half, had a 1-0 lead.
With the lead, the Rebels continued to dictate play the remainder of the game by possessing the ball on offense and allowing the Colonials few opportunities to score.
"We kind of played with the lead and kind of dominated the game," said Beaudoin. "Jefferson had just two corners on offense [all game]. We played really well and I think that [goal] took Jefferson out of their rhythm. We needed to score because they have such an excellent defense. The strength of their team is their back [defenders]."
Fairfax, during the regular season, went 4-2 in district games. The losses, both 1-0, came in back to back days (Oct. 5-6) to Jefferson and Marshall. In the district tournament, the Rebels avenged both of those setbacks with a 2-1 win over Marshall in the semifinals last Wednesday, Oct. 20, and, of course, the finals triumph over the Colonials. Fairfax had opened the district tournament early last week with a 1-0 round one win over No. 6-seed Madison.
Now, it’s on to regionals. A year ago, Fairfax won its first two games at regionals over Lake Braddock and Chantilly before losing to South County in a semifinals contest that ended the Rebels’ season. The team hopes to go even further at this year’s tournament.