The scenario could not have been much better for Vienna-area high school girls' lacrosse fans last Thursday evening, May 26, as cross-town rivals Madison and Oakton met in the Northern Region championship game.
The finals contest, played at Robinson Secondary, matched powerful and unbeaten Madison, champions of the Liberty District, versus Oakton, a team with a less formidable win-loss record which, nonetheless, had captured the Concorde District title and was riding an eight-game win streak which included a district finals win over Chantilly — another region stalwart.
Madison, in a high-scoring region title game affair, more than lived up to its accolades by building up an eight-goal halftime lead on way to a 23-14 finals win. It was the Warhawks' first region title in program history.
"This game was real personal for us because they live right next door to us," said Madison sophomore goalie Taylor Rivera-Silva, of the local rival versus Oakton. "We've played against these players for a long time. It's nice to play them in such a high pressure game."
Both teams are set to move on to the state playoffs with quarterfinals home games slated for later this week.
Madison (19-0), under head coach Amanda Counts, saw several players come up with big scoring games in the region finals win over Oakton, led by junior midfielder Julia Kehoe's five goals. The other top goal scorers for the Warhawks were freshmen midfielder/defender Katie Kerrigan and junior midfielder Megan Bisson, both with four goals; senior midfielder Allison Hahn (3 goals); and freshmen Samantha Babbit (2 goals). Single goal games came from junior defender Molly Web, freshmen midfielder Alex Condon, and junior midfielder Annie Tracz. Rivera-Silva played outstanding in earning the win in the net for Madison.
Oakton (15-6), making its first region finals appearance since winning the region crown in both 2007 and 2008, received a big game from junior attack/midfielder Carly Palmucci, who scored a game-high seven goals. Kelsey Clarke, a junior attack, added three goals, senior midfielder Rachel Kuykendall scored two times, and junior midfielders Alex Revel and Jackie Rupp both had one.
Madison's high-octane offense was close to being unstoppable as the Warhawks, either off a break or in more methodical set-up play, continually found ways to get off good shots against a talented Oakton squad. One huge key in Madison's offensive success was its ability to hold onto the ball and dominate possession time.
"We let them take way too many shots," said Oakton coach Jean Counts, a sister-in-law of Amanda Counts, the Madison coach.
Jean Counts said it was difficult for the Oakton coaching staff to game-plan defensively for Madison because of the numerous Warhawk players who can be game-changers on offense.
"Normally in these games, there are two or three girls [from the other team] you have to watch," she said.
But such is not the case for Madison, which had defeated visiting Oakton, 23-15, in a late regular season game on April 27.
"It's very hard to game plan for an entire team," said Counts.
The coach said her Cougars, in the region title game, did not play with their normal, confident mindset.
"One thing that frustrated me was they were acting kind of scared," she said. "I'm very excited for our team [reaching the finals] because we have a huge amount of girls who have been on the varsity for three years. But for some reason we were overmatched today."
The two teams could well meet once again at states.
OAKTON LED MADISON, 3-2 less than seven minutes into the game, played on a hot, sunny late afternoon, early evening. Clarke, in a crowd of players near the Madison goal, scored from close range less than 30 seconds into the start of the contest. Later, with the score tied at 2-2, Clarke, off an assist from Revel, scored again on a straight-on shot from seven yards out after maneuvering her way through the Warhawks' defense.
But Madison, over the remaining 18 minutes of the first half, then outscored the Cougars, 14-5, to build a 16-8 halftime lead to take control of the game. Kehoe scored four goals during the key Madison scoring spell, while Hahn and Bisson both tallied three.
Madison's lead reached 10 goals at 19-9 on a penalty goal by Kerrigan less than five minutes into the start of the second half. The Warhawks never led by more than 10 goals as Oakton outscored Madison, 5-4, over the final 20 minutes.
When the final horn sounded, Madison had captured its' first-ever region crown in girls' lacrosse.
"It's the first time our team has made it to the finals," said Hahn, of the Madison program. "I'm so happy and proud of all these girls and all the coaches."
While Madison's roster is filled with many talented players, the key for the Warhawks this season has been their unselfishness and dedication to playing as a team.
"We play as a team and all love each other," said Rivera-Silva, the Warhawks' goalie. "We've worked so hard [in recent years] to get here. We wanted to come out today swinging for 50 minutes."
Hahn, this year's Northern Region Player of the Year, said Madison, over the latter part of the season, has not been focused on going unbeaten. The Warhawks have just wanted to take care of business one game at a time, and that has carried over into the postseason as Madison has won six consecutive playoff games, including region tournament victories over Lake Braddock, Westfield, Chantilly, and now the Cougars.
"I don't think going undefeated was ever a real goal for us," said Hahn. "Our first goal was to win the district. We had good players going into the season but didn't know how good we'd be. Every single player on this team can score and our defense is rock solid."
Hahn said Madison began playing its best late in the season following its spring break trip to Clearwater, Fla. The Warhawks, after returning from the sunshine state, won four games over seven days to close out the regular season with lots of momentum.
"We came back as a tighter team and rolled into districts," said Hahn.
Madison's closest game in the postseason came in the region semifinals — last Tuesday, May 24 — when the Warhawks faced Chantilly. In a battle of unbeaten teams at Robinson, Madison prevailed in a nail-biter over the Chargers, 15-14.
"I don't feel we played our best in that game," said Hahn. "It was tighter than it should have been."
Chantilly went on to win the region's third place consolation game over Langley and will, like Madison and Oakton, be competing at states this week.