While the Stone Bridge girls' soccer team made the run through the Virginia AA playoffs that culminated in its 3-0 victory over Courtland in the state final, much of the credit for the team's success went to its high-powered offense.
But while the offense was busy scoring 13 times through a combined six games in the Region II and state playoffs, the defense more than held its own, giving up three goals total in helping Stone Bridge win the first Virginia AA team title in school history.
The Bulldogs' defense, led by sophomore goalie Alex Traughber, senior sweeper Caitlin Orchant, junior Missy Muir, senior Jessi Ritegno, senior Megan Malacarne and sophomore Lindsey Moore, recorded shutouts in four of their final six contests, yielding two goals to Potomac Falls in the closing minutes of a double-overtime loss in the region final and a free-kick strike to Cave Spring in the state semifinals.
"We all work together back there," an exhausted but elated Moore said after Saturday's final at Radford University. "We are able to recover and complement each other."
According to second-year coach Jim Felix, Moore's play deserves special notice. Throughout the playoffs, she was asked to shadow the opposition's strongest players, and although Cave Spring midfielder Jennifer Harvey scored her team's lone goal on a free kick, Moore held her mostly at bay. In the final, Moore held Courtland standout forward Lauren McCoy without a clean look at the goal.
"She is our unsung hero," Felix said of Moore. "We just put her on people, and she takes care of business. She will shut down anybody she's against, and she goes about things very professionally."
In the championship game, the defense was under even more pressure when Malacarne, who injured her left knee in the semifinal win, determined in warm-ups that she would be unable to play.
"It shows how much of a team we are that we can shuffle things around and get it done," Felix said.
For now, Stone Bridge can bask in its achievement, but when the Bulldogs return next spring, things will be decidedly different, as they won't have a chance to repeat as AA champions.
Along with graduating five seniors -- Orchant, Malacarne, Ritegno, midfielder Morgan Vernon and forward Jessica Sunkin -- the Bulldogs no longer will be competing at the AA level. Because of the rapid growth of the school, they will be playing AAA competition in the Northern Region's Liberty District.
But don't expect Stone Bridge to be intimidated by the bigger schools. The Bulldogs will have back many core players, including All-Met goalie/forward Mary Jo Loos, midfielder Sarah Cabrisses and forward Katie Ansell.
"This just sets the bar higher for soccer at Stone Bridge," Moore said moments after having her hands around the state championship trophy.
"This is the first year where we have done really well, so people will start to expect it in the coming years."