After the Warhawks stormed past Oakton in last year’s region and state finals, the psychological hurdle facing the Cougars in Thursday’s AAA Northern Region semifinal felt even bigger than the physical task. But after a weather postponement left the team biting their nails for an extra 24 hours, the Cougars were ready.
Seniors Carly Palmucci, Jackie Rupp and Kelsey Clarke took full advantage of their final crack at the Warhawks, pacing a fluid, consistent attack and leading the Cougars to an emotional 12-10 win. Oakton will host Langley, which rallied to beat Centreville, 7-6, in Friday’s final.
“This was a huge mental block for us, and after last year, tonight almost felt like a state title game,” Clarke said. “After getting over this obstacle, we feel like we can do anything.”
The teams traded goals for the opening 15 minutes with Melissa Kellan using a height advantage to tally four of Madison’s first six goals. But Palmucci answered with quick goals and precise assists from behind the net.
After consecutive Madison yellow cards late in the first half, Allison Turk, Clarke and Rupp scored during a 5-1 run that gave Oakton a 9-7 halftime lead. Julia Kehoe pulled Madison within 12-10 with three minutes left, but Oakton goalie Emily George stopped two close shots in the final seconds to seal the win.
In the other semifinal, Langley trailed Centreville 6-2 at the half but finally gained traction in the draw circle to turn the tide after the break. Nicky Pritchett scored the go-ahead goal with 4 minutes 5 seconds left. The Saxons won the ensuing draw and didn’t give the ball back to the Wildcats. Erin Long finished with seven saves.
In the AA Northern Region, Loudoun County blew past Culpeper, 20-6, to reach its first region final. The Raiders will face Woodgrove, a 21-11 winner over Loudoun Valley. In the AAA Northwest Region, Forest Park beat Broad Run, 13-8, and Battlefield edged Osbourn Park, 14-13.
On the road and on the ropes late in the first half of a AAA Northern Region semifinal, Langley’s hopes for a fourth straight boys’ lacrosse state title appeared to be slipping away.
But after Oakton bolted to a commanding early lead, the Saxons drew on the one resource they have more of than any team in the state — experience.
Senior Michael Adams scored twice in the final seconds of the first half to trigger a 9-0 run and the Saxons held on late for a 16-12 win. They advanced to face Chantilly — a 7-6 overtime winner at W.T. Woodson — in Friday’s final, which will be a rematch of last year’s state final won by Langley.
“We’ve been here so many times that we don’t panic, and I think it showed,” Adams said. “Once we got the momentum, we didn’t really look back.”
Cole Fitzgerald continued Chantilly’s Northern Region title defense with a game-winning goal on an assist from Mike Marson. Woodson scored in the final minute to force the extra period but for the second straight year, the Chargers came out on top.
In the AA Northern Region, Woodgrove knocked off top-seeded Briar Woods, 12-10. The Wolverines will play the winner of Dominion vs. Kettle Run, which was postponed. Battlefield routed Colonial Forge, 19-6, and will host Osbourn Park in Tuesday’s AAA Northwest Region final.