Before Saskia Braum arrived in the United States as a one-year exchange student, she e-mailed her future host "sister," Forest Park sophomore Kristin Frost, to find out what interests they shared. One stood out above all the others: field hockey.
Braum, a junior, had played the sport for five years in Aachen, Germany, so Frost signed her up for Forest Park's junior varsity team. A week after practice began, Coach Tim Vaughan named her the varsity's starting goalkeeper. Three months later, Braum celebrated the school's first Cardinal District championship -- a 4-2 victory over Woodbridge on Wednesday night -- with the rest of her teammates.
"After the game when we came together and were celebrating, you could really feel the spirit of the team," Braum said. "It was amazing."
Vaughan said that Braum fit in with the Bruins right away.
"She came to tryouts and played really well and she continued to play well all season," he said. "We were lucky to get her and very glad that we did."
While the emergence of Braum has been a surprise for the Bruins (10-4), not surprising has been the play of the team's returning forwards, senior Christina Pybus and juniors Ashby Nickerson and Abbey Mullins. The three players scored all four goals in the district final and have combined for more than 20 on the season.
Forest Park was assured of its first Northwestern Region appearance even before the district title game, but the win gives the Bruins a home match, which will be played tomorrow evening against Colonial Forge, the Commonwealth District runner-up.
Regardless of the Bruins' regional result, Braum is pleased with her American field hockey experience.
"From the first day I went to practice both [the varsity and JV] teams totally involved me in everything," she said. "They treated me as if I had been playing here for years. I appreciate all the help my teammates and coaches have given me."
Cedar Run District
Osbourn Park sophomore Regan Stark, in her first year playing the sport, has been a steady presence between the pipes for the Yellow Jackets. Although her nine saves weren't enough to put Osbourn Park on top in Wednesday's 2-0 loss to Culpeper in the Cedar Run District final, Coach Kate Thomas said the result could have been much worse.
"Regan made some, 'Oh-my-God-did-you-just-see-that?'-type saves," Thomas said. "That girl doesn't hesitate to dive."
By finishing second in the Cedar Run, the Yellow Jackets (10-7-1) will host a region quarterfinal tomorrow against Woodbridge (7-8-1). The region semifinals are Wednesday, and the championship is Thursday. Culpeper would host the final if it advances that far.
Woodbridge at Osbourn Park, 3:30
Colonial Forge at Forest Park, 6
Fauquier at Stafford, 3:30
North Stafford at Culpeper, 3:30