Yorktown sophomore Marianna Moore was one of several candidates for the role of defending Hayfield's Sarah Gunter in the National District girls lacrosse tournament final.
Moore and her teammates simulated shadowing the district Player of the Year in the days leading up to Friday's championship game, but on-field practice failed to prepare Moore for the emotional shock she experienced when informed she was the one assigned to Hayfield's standout midfielder.
"I was terrified," Moore said. "[Gunter] was the player of the year, she was incredible. Last time we played them she scored, like, a billion goals. I was honored to be assigned that, but I was scared out of my mind."
Moore received her assignment shortly before Friday's game and assumed at some point she would be replaced as part of a cycle of defenders focused on stopping Hayfield's No. 13. But on this night at Greenbrier Stadium, there would be no need for a substitute as Moore's effort helped Yorktown continue its stranglehold on the National District.
Top-seed Yorktown captured its sixth consecutive district championship, including back-to-back against Hayfield, with a 16-8 victory over the No. 3 Hawks. Gunter finished with five goals, but the final two came late in the second half, when Yorktown held a comfortable lead.
Gunter's scoring opportunities were few and far between, thanks in part to Moore's defensive performance.
"We started Marianna at that position and she just did a phenomenal job, so we kept her there because it was working," first-year Yorktown head coach Crystal Morgan said. "Everybody knows that Gunter is an amazing player — she's the player of the year in our district. We were very aware coming into this game that we needed to shut her down. I think [Moore] was excited about the task of that being her job — obviously nervous at the same time because the other player is amazing — but I think she did a great job. We've very proud of her.
"Gunter is a huge threat. All their players are great, but Gunter just has the finesse to go straight to goal every single time. Anytime that she has the ball, we know she's going to goal and she can go through a million different players to get there. ... [Moore] shadowed her the entire time. She did not give up on her. She was on her hip the whole time. Any time that Gunter would walk anywhere on the field, Marianna was just following her around. She practiced that in practice. She was ready for it."
Moore said she gained confidence as the game progressed. She helped limit Gunter to two first-half goals.
"After the first half, and she had only scored a few times, I was shocked that she hadn't scored more than that," Moore said. "It kind of kept me going, thinking I could carry on throughout the game, hoping she wouldn't pull something crazy out."
Offensively, sophomore midfielder Jennie Basile led the way for Yorktown with five goals.
"She came out from the second the game started and was a tenacious player," Morgan said. "She was ready to play."
Yorktown trailed 1-0 early and failed to score in the game's opening 11 minutes, but Basile got the Patriots on the board at the 13:34 mark, sparking a 6-0 run.
"We just knew we couldn't get frustrated, we couldn't get put down," Basile said. "We just had to keep playing our game, and that's what we did."
Ella Richardson scored four goals for Yorktown. Maddy Ernesto and Tori Haling each scored two, and Beni Yuzawa, Christine Downie and Michelle Casteel each added one.
Morgan became the third Yorktown head coach in as many years to win a district championship. She also led the Patriots to an undefeated district record in the regular season. Prior to the district tournament, Morgan said others had joked with her about not breaking the program's streak of titles.
"I was a little nervous just because of ... having that target on my back," she said. "I didn't want to mess it up for the coaches in the previous years and the girls that have been playing on the team for a numbers of years. These girls deserve it. I didn't want to be the first coach to lose it. We came to play today."