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Westfield Girls Building on Last Year's Success

Bulldogs unbeaten through their first six games this spring.

Game-in and game-out over the first part of the Westfield High girls' soccer season, the Bulldogs have found ways to win games or at the very least play their opponent to a deadlock.

Westfield, once again, is showing it is among the elite teams in the Northern Region. A year ago, the Bulldogs went an impressive 12-5-1 overall and reached the Northern Region semifinals where their season finally ended with a 4-1 loss to Robinson.

This season, third-year head coach Kristi Williams' squad has gotten out of the gates quickly and could very well match or better last year's success.

Following good play during exhibition games — a 6-0 win over Fairfax High, and a 1-1 tie versus visiting non-region opponent Loudoun Valley — Westfield began the regular season in frustrating fashion with consecutive 1-1 tie games versus visiting McLean on March 16 and on the road at district foe Robinson on March 22.

Counting the exhibition game with Loudoun Valley, the Bulldogs had played three consecutive 1-1 tie games.

That was followed two days later with a dominating 5-0 win at South Lakes on March 24. The win over the Seahawks was the start of a Westfield four-game winning streak — the triumphs coming over visiting district opponent Herndon, 2-0, on March 28; visiting South County, 2-1, last Wednesday, March 30; and guest team Yorktown, 3-2, on Friday, April 1.

So, heading into this week's action, Westfield carried a 4-0-2 regular season record.

"I am happy with the team's performance to date," said Williams. "The players are playing with a tremendous amount of effort and determination, and they strive to play quality soccer. We continue to improve, and are working hard in training to improve our ability to possess the ball and increase our speed of play. We had a tough week this past week playing three really good teams, but we came out of it 3-0, so the team was pleased about that."

Westfield has received outstanding play in the net from junior goalie Shannon Casey.

"She has an incredible blend of technique and instinct, and has already made several key saves," said Williams.

Casey has received plenty of defensive support in front of her with the sound play of senior Mollie Leon and sophomores Carolyn Seltzer, Kaylee Hohein and Meghan DiPippa, a foursome which has anchored a stingy defense.

Williams has also been pleased with Westfield's play in the midfield where juniors Carley Jenkins, Nichole Bonzano, Grace DeBell, and Amanda Cameron have helped the Bulldogs transition into the offensive attack.

Up front, senior forward Kirsten Miller, sophomore forward/midfielder Bianca Blazquez, and junior midfielder Carley Jenkins, the team's leading scorer, have put steady pressure on opposing defenses.

<b>LAST YEAR'S</b> Westfield squad, by reaching the region semifinals, fell one tournament victory short of reaching the title game and earning an automatic seeding at the state tournament. Earlier that postseason, the Bulldogs had reached the Concorde District tournament semifinals before losing in overtime to Oakton. But Westfield, at regionals, bounced back with wins over both Woodson, 1-0, and Yorktown, 3-0, to reach the Final Four.

Westfield hopes to ultimately create some great playoff memories later this season as well.

"We had a great year last year, and a fun ride going deep into regionals and only missing states by one game," said Williams. "That experience definitely helps all of the returnees this year understand how important district games are for seeding in the [district] tournament and for positioning yourself for regionals, and it gives them some extra motivation to do something special."

As successful a postseason as it was for the Bulldogs in 2010, there is still the sting of having lost semifinals games in both the district and region tournaments.

"It is great to get as far as we did, but they are still only memories since we weren't able to bring home the tangible district banner," said Williams. "Every single player set that as their team goal for this season, so we will just have to play the best we can, handle our business, and see where the cards fall at the end. We play in an absolute power conference with excellent girls' soccer programs."

Certainly, in a Concorde District featuring some of the region's most powerful teams such as Chantilly, Robinson, Oakton and Centreville, there is no guarantee of even making it out of the district and qualifying for regionals. Centreville High, one of the region's best teams during the regular season last year, did not qualify for the regional tournament.

Whatever the future holds for Westfield as far as postseason success, one can be certain Westfield will play all-out throughout the regular season and continue to be a formidable opponent. Williams loves her teams' positive mindset as well as its on-field determination to play smothering defense and to convert offensive scoring chances.

"We have incredible team spirit and camaraderie among the players, a work ethic and determination during games that is very impressive, commitment to pressuring the ball and converting opportunities when we get them," said Williams. "We have a desire to keep improving each day in training and in games. I am lucky to coach them. They understand when it is time to work and time to have fun, and they truly love and are committed to their school and their program."

Next Monday night, April 11, Westfield will play a non-district game at West Springfield High. The Bulldogs' next home game is scheduled for next Wednesday, April 13 versus district opponent Oakton.