The first nine games of McLean’sseason have been a frustrating success in the eyes of senior Maire Shine. At 6-0-3, the Highlanders are off to an even better start than when they captured the school’s first girls’ soccer state title in 2011. But Shine knows that if not for a few shots that sailed just wide or a few opportunities that just barely slipped away in their three games that ended in a tie, she and her teammates could be one of the area’s few remaining undefeated teams.
“It’s definitely frustrating at times for the team when we’re not finishing or getting the ball in the back of the net like previous seasons,” said Shine, who’s scored five of the team’s 11 goals. “But at the same time, we’ve also done our part in not letting the other team score in those tie games and we’ve also learned to be more mentally tough through those games.”
Monday’s contest against Madison demonstrated the Highlanders’ growth. After falling behind 1-0 early in the second half, a McLean team well versed in competing for a game’s entirety regrouped, as Tess Brookes scored the equalizer before Shine secured the win with a quick overtime goal.
“Five of our games have gone to overtime and we’ve been in a lot of tightly contested games,” McLean Coach Rob Bouchard said. “And with how much talent there is with the teams and players in this area, there’s a benefit to that because we’re learning to play in high-pressure situations while testing our endurance.”
McLean’s defense has especially proven strong in these situations, recording seven shutouts through nine games. Key to this success is sophomore goalkeeper Lydia Erickson, whose stout, mechanical play led Bouchard to call her the best goalie he’s coached in his 11 years on the Highlanders’ staff.
“During practice, a lot of people have been working with me on stopping shots and testing me in goal, so that’s really helped, along with communicating with my teammates on defense,” Erickson said.
Senior co-captain Kaela Mahoney, along with Audrey Freeman, Katie Horenstein and Meaghan O’Reilly, serve as the other key cogs on a defense that embodies the chemistry of a team that returned 10 of its 11 starters from last season.
The Highlanders will look to draw upon this experience and defensive grit Thursday when they host eighth-ranked and former Liberty District rival Stone Bridge. A victory could go a long way in putting McLean on track for another state-title run, a goal that stands as the singular focus for this collection of players.
“We’re definitely like a blue-collar team,” Shine said. “There aren’t any superstars. We just have a bunch of strong leaders and players who only care about winning games.”
Briar Woods handed Tuscarora its first loss of the season Tuesday to remain undefeated in Conference 14 play. . . . Battlefield had its last two games cancelled by rain. . . . Stone Bridge has outscored opponents 21-0 this season. . . . Osbourn Park has won seven straight following a season-opening loss to No. 4 Broad Run. . . . Westfield took control of the Conference 5 lead by beating then-No. 6 Chantilly on Monday for the first time since 2011.
1. Battlefield (7-0) LW: 1
2. Briar Woods (6-1) LW: 3
3. Tuscarora (8-1-1) LW: 2
4. Broad Run (6-1-1) LW: 4
5. W.T. Woodson (7-1-1) LW: 6
6. Loudoun County (8-2) LW: 9
7. Stone Bridge (7-0) LW: 10
8. Osbourn Park (7-1) LW: NR
9. Forest Park (6-2) LW: 5
10. Westfield (5-3-1) LW: 8
Dropped out: No. 6 Chantilly (6-3)
On the bubble: Chantilly (6-3), McLean (6-0-3)
Records through Tuesday