Overall this season, McLean High girls' soccer coach Rob Bouchard has been pleased with the way his Highlanders have played. But he did not believe his team was at the top of its game in a 1-1 tie versus Liberty District and cross-town rival Langley last Tuesday, May 3.
Bouchard, the McLean program's JV head coach of seven years prior to becoming the varsity head coach this past offseason, was quick to credit Langley, which was playing on its home turf, with playing a solid game in slowing down his team.
"I thought the Langley team played really well," said Bouchard, whose McLean squad held an overall record of 7-3-2 and a district mark of 4-1-1 following the deadlock. "I think they outhustled us to balls and were really physical in the field. They won a lot of the midfield attack."
Bouchard, since the game with the Saxons, has been stressing to his team the need to bring up its intensity level. McLean was scheduled to conclude its regular season with a district home contest versus Stone Bridge High earlier this week on Tuesday, May 10. The Liberty District tournament is set to begin next week.
"Right now we're looking at bringing up our level of intensity," said Bouchard.
In the Langley game, McLean senior forward Jordan Walker scored her team's lone goal - that coming in the first half. But the Saxons got the equalizer about midway through the second half. Ultimately, Langley settled for its first tie game of the season while the Highlanders notched their second deadlock of the season.
Bouchard said players from both the McLean and Langley squads get emotionally fired up any time the two teams meet. While the coach wishes that had translated to a better played game by his team against the Saxons last week, he still saw the extra meaning and importance to the contest in his players' mannerisms.
"The girls [from both teams] grew up coming and watching McLean and Langley games with other kids, so for them it's a big game," said Bouchard. "It's anybody's game when we play Langley every year."
In its following game after playing McLean to the tie, Langley, which is coached by Ken Savittierre, went on to win a non-district game over visiting West Springfield, 3-2, on May 5 to improve its season record to 8-3-1. The Saxons, going into this season's regular finale at district opponent Jefferson on Tuesday, May 10, held a 2-3-1 record in district play. Langley's district wins this spring have come over South Lakes and Marshall. Langley, in its first season under Savittierre, has improved on last year's 5-8-1 season.
<b>MCLEAN</b>, which a year ago under former coach Tifani Washington, finished with a winning season record of 8-6-1, has put together an even better record this season. Bouchard, who coached most of his current group of players in recent years when they were members of the JV, loves the make-up of his team.
"They've done everything I've asked, especially with it being my first year as head coach," he said. "They're a great group. When this job opened I said I would love to coach these girls. They are real talented and have fun, but know when to get serious."
Bouchard said his Highlanders are a tough matchup for anyone when they are playing as a unit.
"I think one of the keys is when we play as a team we're a real formidable unit," said Bouchard. "When we're clicking and playing well, we're really dangerous. When the kids are [mentally] in the game and ready to play, they want to prove to other teams they can beat them."
That sort of mentality could take McLean a long way in both the upcoming district and Northern Region playoffs. Last year, McLean defeated Langley in a first round district playoff game before losing to Madison in the semifinals. At regionals, the Highlanders' season ended with a 2-1 first round loss to Yorkown.
McLean's district wins this season have come over Marshall, South Lakes, Jefferson, and Fairfax. The lone district loss came at Madison on April 11 in a 4-3 overtime setback.
McLean, in its final regular season game against Stone Bridge earlier this week, was scheduled to celebrate Senior Night. The Highlanders' six 12th graders who were to be honored were: midfielder Katie Yensen, defender Mary D'Alessandro, forward Jordan Walker, midfielder Kristina Bettner, forward Melissa Downey, and midfielder Andie Romness.
"They're a phenomenal group and one of the reasons I took this job when it opened," said Bouchard, of his seniors. "These kids are great kids."