Herndon sophomore Sammy Stone spent the first half of the Hornets’ 6A North region quarterfinal matchup with South County setting up her teammates.
Early in the second half, Stone scored a goal of her own.
At that point, the floodgates had opened and the Herndon field hockey team had all but clinched a return trip to the region semifinals.
Stone’s goal gave Herndon a 4-1 advantage and the Hornets cruised to an 8-1 victory over South County on Oct. 30 at Herndon High School.
The victory set up a semifinal rematch with Fairfax at 7 p.m. tonight at Fairfax High School. The winner of tonight's game will secure a berth in the state tournament and advance to the region final to face the winner of Westfield/Chantilly on Thursday, Nov. 6.
Against South County, Stone assisted the Hornets’ three first-half goals.
With 27:36 left in the second half, Stone scored during a penalty corner with an assist from her sister, Louisville commit Taylor Stone.
“We had a really nice passing game,” Sammy Stone said. “I think we were all focused on playing as a unit rather than trying to get these big balls and working around them. I was just in the mix and there to assist.”
Two of Stone’s assists went to Penn commit Sofia Palacios, who produced a hat trick against the Stallions. Palacios found the back of the cage twice during the opening half, and her third goal put the finishing touch on the team’s offensive explosion, giving the Hornets an 8-1 advantage with less than 5 minutes remaining.
“She was on fire,” Sammy Stone said of Palacios. “I think she did a great job of looking for everybody. Even though she had the goals, she was looking to make plays to everybody else, too. She was really on point.”
“Sammy and Sofia play up top and when they’re playing well and coming back and playing defense, we’re a really good team,” Herndon head coach Mary Miller said. “... That translates all over the field.”
Herndon senior midfielder Taylor Stone finished with one goal and three assists. Her goal came via penalty stroke with 18:49 remaining in the second half, giving Herndon a 5-1 lead.
Herndon sophomore Grace Caron, senior Helen Hinders and junior Kristen Caron each scored one goal.
Junior midfielder Seara Mainor had a big impact on the game, Miller said, including the ability to quickly get the ball up the field, taking pressure off the defense.
“She changes the momentum of the game,” Miller said about Mainor, who also plays soccer at Herndon. “She is the quickest kid I’ve ever seen playing field hockey. ... She has improved more than anyone in those three years that I’ve ever seen. I think she could play in college if she wanted to. ...
“When she’s getting close to the ball, the other team is in trouble because she’s going to beat them to the ball, even if she’s a step or two behind.”
The victory improved Herndon’s record to 19-2.
Herndon reached the region semifinals in 2013, where the Hornets ended their season with a 2-1 loss to Fairfax. Herndon finished region runner-up in 1979, but has never won a region championship.
The Hornets on Oct. 23 won their first conference/district championship since 1979, beating Westfield 3-2 in the Conference 5 final.