Only Annandale has been powerful enough to overcome four-time defending Potomac District field hockey champion Fairfax. The Atoms defeated the Fairfax team for the second time in as many seasons last week, 1-0, to share the lead in the battle for the district title. It was only the second district loss for the Rebels in five seasons and, if both teams (each 6-1 in district play) win their last two games, it will cause a playoff game to determine the district champion.
Four weeks ago the Rebels were clearly the dominant team as they easily beat Annandale 4-0. "We controlled the last game. It was the prettiest high school game I've ever seen," said Fairfax Coach Starr Karl. But she said Fairfax, 7-2 overall, made some costly mistakes last week.
Last Friday Annandale, 8-3 overall, earned a second shot at the district title by winning the ball and controlling the play throughout the game.
"We were more aggressive and our passing and timing were better," explained Annandale Coach Cindy Hook. "Last game Fairfax was more aggressive. We've improved progressively since then."
That improvement showed as the Atoms' stickwork broke down the Fairfax offense and broke through the defense. "We beat them at both ends of the field," Hook said.
Annandale put its opponent on the defensive for much of the first half, rarely allowing Fairfax to use their offense. The beginning of the second half was much of the same, with the Atoms' Suzie McPhail finally converting a long cross by Amy Gribble into the winning goal.
The Rebels forced too many diagonal passes, according to Karl. The Atoms, who have been increasing the intensity of play since their loss Sept. 23, cut off many of those passes to push Fairfax back on the defensive.
Teamwork has been a key success factor for Fairfax, the lack of it played a dominant role in its loss. "We weren't thinking. We were hesitating, we weren't supporting each other," said Karl. "Support is one of our strengths and that's where we went wrong."
After falling 1-0, the Rebels went on the offensive. It was not until the closing minutes that Fairfax made substantial attacks at Annandale goalkeeper Anne Nalley. Amy Rusert led the Rebels drive but failed to convert four consecutive penalty corners, each stopped by Annandale's Tina Demeglio.
In the last minute Rusert made a final attempt to tie it with a strong shot from the middle that hit the left post and bounced into a crowd of defenders who cleared it out of Annandale territory.
A playoff game will be played next week if both teams still share the district lead. Annandale expects to continue its winning form while Fairfax hopes to revert back to earlier strategies. "Hopefully I'll have a different team on the field, mentally," Karl said. "We'll be more aggressive and have our forward line playing together."