The McLean High girls' soccer team scored the game's first four goals and went on to defeat the Centreville Wildcats, 4-2, last Wednesday night, June 1 in a Northern Region semifinals playoff game played on James Madison High School's turf field in Vienna.
McLean went on to play in Friday's region title game two nights later where it lost to W.T. Woodson (see related story), 1-0, at Madison. Nevertheless, the Highlanders, by reaching the region finals, qualified for this week's state AAA playoffs.
In their region semifinals win over Centreville, the Highlanders, this year's Liberty District champions, got first half goals from Melissa Downey, Becca Latimer, Andrea Romness, and Kristina Bettner, whose header goal off a Romness corner made the score 4-0 with 10 minutes, 55 seconds still remaining in the first half.
Downey, a senior First Team All-Northern Region forward, scored the game's first goal less than seven minutes into the first half. On the goal, she took advantage of a Centreville defensive mistake and found herself behind the Centreville defense and goalie on a short breakaway off the right side. She scored from 10 yards out.
"It was a [defensive] mistake. The ball just kind of came to me and I volleyed it over [the goalie]," said Downey, of getting free on the breakaway.
Nearly 11 minutes later, McLean got onto the scoreboard again when Latimer scored on a 12-yard shot from the left wing area. The scoring opportunity developed moments after McLean goalie Kristen Ahearn, during a strong Centreville scoring rush, had made a sensational catch and save of a scorching shot on goal from 10 yards out by Wildcat junior midfielder Kayley Shomers. Following the save, McLean quickly moved the ball up-field, opening the way for Latimer's score to make it 2-0 McLean.
The Highlanders continued their early game scoring bonanza with just over 16 minutes remaining in the half when Romney, on a free kick from 45 yards away, hit a solid shot on goal which was mishandled and went into the net to make the score 3-0.
"I kicked it full power and low," said Romney.
And Romney contributed to her team's fourth goal just more than five minutes later when her corner kick led to Bettner's header goal from close range.
"We've been working on that play a lot," said Romney, of the score. "I saw her wide open and I placed it straight on her head."
CENTREVILLE broke onto the scoreboard in the final minute of the first half on a close range, straight-on header goal by Clara Logsdon off a corner kick assist from teammate Haley Yow to get the Wildcats within 4-1 at the half.
Centreville pulled within 4-2 with just over 15 minutes remaining in the contest when Logsdon, a versatile sophomore player, scored from 12 yards out off a breakaway left. The Wildcats threatened thereafter to get even closer, but could not find the net again. Earning the win in the net for McLean was goalie Ahearn.
"We knew we were still in the game," said Centreville coach Gary Malebranche, in regards to his team's 4-0 first half deficit. "McLean didn't dominate us per say but took advantage of our mistakes which good teams do. It's always difficult [being behind 4-0] because in this sport you don't necessarily score a lot."
Centreville, the No. 2 seed from the Concorde District, finished the season 13-3. The team, which began the season 9-0, won region playoff games over Hayfield and Lake Braddock, both by 3-0 scores, to earn the semifinals date with McLean.
Malebranche was pleased with his girls' overall play this season.
"I'm very proud of them," he said. "This loss is a disappointment because we really believed we could be a state championship contender, not just a region contender. In the end we just hope to learn from this loss."
THE HIGHLANDERS (14-4-2) reached the semis with victories over West Springfield, 2-0, and Washington-Lee, 5-1.
McLean coach Rob Bouchard, whose team lost a regular season game at Centreville, 2-1, on March 24, said his Highlanders were determined to get off to a fast start in Wednesday's postseason meeting with Centreville.
"We just wanted to come out with intensity," he said. "The first time we played them they stuck it to us at the beginning of the game."
Romness, McLean's outstanding midfielder who will be playing collegiate soccer next school year at the University of South Carolina, played her usual center midfield position while McLean built up its lead. Later, she requested that coach Bouchard place her back on defense so she could help keep the Highlanders' lead intact.
"She just has great field awareness," said Bouchard. "Not just her, but the whole team."
The coach was thoroughly impressed with his team's outstanding win against one of the region's top teams in Centreville.
"This is a great feeling right now," he said, following the win which earned McLean a trip to the finals and an automatic state playoff bid. "Centreville's a great team. They didn't stop fighting. Their coach [Gary Malebranche] was the Region Coach of the Year. He has them competing every time."
McLean players Downey (forward) and Romness (midfield) both made First Team All-Region. For Centreville, sophomore Alexandra Myers (midfield) made the team. Malebranche earned Region Coach of the Year honors.