Loudoun County High School freshman Tracy Higgins barely had time to catch her breath after scoring her eighth goal of the season, because as soon as the ball went into the net, her teammates piled on top of her.
Not that Higgins minded -- her goal on Friday night at Loudoun Valley came during the second sudden-death overtime period and gave the Raiders a 2-1 victory over the Vikings in the Region II championship game.
With the win, Loudoun County earned its first regional championship after losing in the region final the past two years. It also means that the Raiders (16-4) will host Massaponax, the Region I runner-up, on Tuesday in a Group AA quarterfinal. The Vikings (17-2-1) will travel to Region I champion Jamestown on Tuesday.
"It feels real good. It feels awesome to win regionals for the first time," Higgins said. "I was thrilled when I saw the ball go into the goal, and then my teammates piled right on top of me. It's great; it's wonderful."
If it seems as if Loudoun County and Loudoun Valley play each other every week, it's because they do. Friday's game marked the third week in a row that the teams faced each other. In fact, since the start of the 1998 season, these teams have played each other eight times -- Valley has won four of those games, County has won three, and the teams have tied once. Friday's game also marked the sixth consecutive time that the schools have played to a 2-1 score.
"It gets tiring playing the same team, but I do like playing [Valley] because it's a challenge and it's always a good game," Higgins said. "Plus, you want to win so bad."
Higgins's goal capped an exciting game that featured several good offensive chances for both teams and some tremendous point-blank saves past Loudoun Valley junior goalkeeper Kristen Bailey. The Vikings scored just before halftime when Jackie Lutman's shot from 18 yards out skipped by Loudoun County goalkeeper MacKenzie Kelly.
The Raiders tied the game less than two minutes into the second half when sophomore Tara Kidwell, the Northwestern District player of the year, crossed the ball from the right side to an open Denise Franklin, who beat Bailey with a hard shot.
The score remained tied through regulation, two five-minute overtime periods and one five-minute sudden-death period. With 2:18 left in the second sudden-death, Kidwell again crossed the ball from the right side, this time to Higgins, who fought off one defender and shot the ball into the lower right side of the net.
"All I thought was `wow' when I saw the shot go in," Loudoun County senior defender Merrie Tobler said.
Loudoun County (16-4) 0 1 0 1 -- 2
Loudoun Valley (17-2-1) 1 0 0 0 -- 1
GOALS -- LC: Franklin 42nd minute; Higgins 98th; LV: Lutman 39th.
ASSISTS -- LC: Kidwell 2.
SHOTS -- LC: 16; LV: 11.
SAVES -- LC: Kelly 6; LV: Bailey 12.
CAPTION: Loudoun County's Tracy Higgins, left, shown chasing ball ahead of Loudoun Valley's Jeanette Fauth, scored the game winner in overtime.
CAPTION: Megan Horner, left, chases ball for Loudoun County. Katie Wence and Randy Krukles of Loudoun Valley look on.