As Oakton’s 11 seniors marched through the two lines of younger teammates on Tuesday evening’s senior night, three of them were joined by underclassmen from the Cougars. While their high school achievements, favorite quotes, and advice to teammates were read aloud, captains Danielle Palmucci, Mei Pionke and Olivia Townsend walked arm-in-arm with not only their parents, like the other Cougars seniors, but also their younger sisters, all of whom played large roles for Oakton this season.
By the time the three pairs of Oakton sisters walked off the field — the seniors for the last time in the regular season — they’d propelled the Cougars to a 17-11 senior day victory.
The Pionkes combined for four goals and one assist, the Palmuccis three goals and three assists, and the Townsends six saves (from junior Gillian) and several ground ball pickups (from defender Olivia).
Freshman Stephanie Palmucci assisted on her sister’s first half goal, one of three assists for Stephanie and one of two goals for Danielle.
“Sometimes we’ll make eye contact and know where the other one’s cutting,” Danielle said. “We can pass before they’re there, and they run onto it.”
When Oakton fell behind Robinson by as much as two goals early, Olivia Townsend helped the Cougars storm back with several ground ball pickups, as she and her sister in goal combined to slow the Rams’ charge in the opening minutes.
“Especially because I’m the goalie and she’s a defender, I know she has my back,” said goalie Gillian of Olivia, who joked that Gillian “has to walk home if she lets too many goals in.”
“It’s going to be a lot different without them here next year,” Rachel said. “I think they’re great role models.”
Though those sister tandems won’t return intact next season, junior Lydia Montanino will, a reassuring fact to any underclassmen who watched her bolster the sisters’ strong showings with a five-goal, two-assist performance in the win. Senior captain Tori Anderson also tallied a hat trick as the Cougars -- who needed overtime to dispose of the Rams last season -- clinched another win over Robinson (9-4), to whom this year’s seniors have never lost.
“They’re big presences on the field, so we’ll miss them because of the sister dynamic but also the team dynamic,” Gillian Townsend said.
The win sends the Cougars (9-2) into the playoffs with just one Virginia 6A loss on their schedule -- that to Westfield (11-1). Oakton’s seniors head to their final Virginia playoffs with a 54-17 career record.
“That was a great win,” Danielle Palmucci said. “I think that’s really representative of us as a class, we always come out hard no matter what the circumstances.”