Last season, Sarah Ashton scored a second-half goal to seal Woodbridge's fourth straight Cardinal/Cedar Run field hockey tournament title. But Woodbridge ended up one win shy of a state tournament berth when it lost to North Stafford, 4-3, in a Northwestern Region semifinal.
With a number of starters returning, Ashton -- a senior midfielder and now a captain -- senses the importance of trying to maintain her team's high level of play within Prince William and at the same time getting stronger outside of it.
"I think every year captains say they don't just want to do as good as the year before, they want to do better," Ashton said. "They want to leave the school saying they were able to do that. No one wants to leave the school saying they did worse. Our goal is to be the champion of the district. We don't want to lose to anyone in our district. Out of our district it's a different thing, we just want to play to a higher level."
Having an athlete such as Ashton, who is accustomed to playing at highly competitive levels in other sports, is a luxury for Woodbridge. Two years ago, she played on the school's soccer team that reached the state semifinals. Such big-game experience makes her capable of taking over on the field.
"It's critical to have athletic-minded kids. They all have very good game sense, which makes my job a little bit easier," first-year Woodbridge coach Margaret Cush said. "When we played last week, the team knew they needed to get the ball to Sarah, and Sarah was to feed the forward line. It worked very well."
The Vikings are off to a 2-4 start this season -- although they are 1-0 against Prince William teams -- and Ashton is quick to point out that every game just puts them closer to avenging that regional semifinal loss to North Stafford.
"We think about [the closeness of the loss] because it proves that we can do it this year," Ashton said.
"The county in general has not been as front page as some of the other schools," she said. "The girls have the ability to compete with North Stafford, have the ability to compete at the regional level. There's no reason for them not to be able to do that."