Through the tears, Lake Braddock senior midfielder Nikki Saucier did not see the final 23 seconds of her team's game. But her teammates made sure she could play in another one.
Saucier scored the game's first goal and sacrificed her body late to help the 10th-ranked Bruins reach the Virginia AAA Virginia field hockey semifinals with a 2-1 victory over Northwest Region champion Stafford last night in Vienna.
Lake Braddock (17-3) will play Maury, which eliminated Central Region champion Midlothian, 2-1, in a semifinal at 4 p.m. today at Oakton High.
With Stafford (14-5) trailing 2-1, Saucier and her team was forced to withstand three penalty corners in the final minute. However, the next to last one could be the one that hurts the Bruins the most.
Saucier sprinted off the line and blocked a shot by Lindsey Piester with her left foot, forcing the Northern Region player of the year to the bench sobbing with 23 seconds to play -- giving Stafford one more chance on a penalty corner. The chance was stopped and cleared up the sideline by Kendall Foster-Wittig, who had put the Bruins ahead 2-0 with 19 minutes 5 seconds remaining.
"As soon as they got real close to scoring, the second ball I was going to get no matter if it hits me in the face," Saucier said. "I have never been hit that hard in my entire life. I was so upset because if they had scored I would have blamed myself."
No one could have blamed Saucier for the way she controlled the field at each end. She scored the first goal less than two minutes into the second half and routinely made stops at the defensive end to help change direction of the play.
"I don't know what position she plays, she plays everywhere," said Stafford Coach Robin Woodie, who has directed the Bruins to the state tournament five straight years.
Joining Lake Braddock (17-3) in the semifinals will be No. 6 W.T. Woodson, which ousted the Bruins in the Northern Region final last week. The Cavaliers advanced with a 2-1 victory over Northwest Region runner-up Albemarle. Colleen Cawley scored the final goal with 54 seconds to play to secure the victory.
Woodson will play James River, which beat two-time defending state champion Princess Anne, 2-0, at 5 p.m. today at Oakton.
Late goals in the first half have become commonplace for the Cavaliers, who also scored late in the first half against Lake Braddock.
"I think that's what's helped us a lot in this tournament, we've had a lot of goals back-to-back," Cawley said. "After they scored we quickly brought it up the field and scored, that kept our momentum up."
Last night Woodson (20-1-1) watched plenty of scoring chances slip away as an alert Patriots defense was able to clear three shots off the line in the first half to keep within striking distance.
Laurne Neese tied the score for Albemarle (11-8) with more than seven minutes to play in the first half. However, Woodson, which did not give up a shot or a penalty corner in the second half, finally used its pressure to break through before halftime with Cawley's goal.
"They cleared three off the line in the first half, clear-cut scoring chances that they saved," Woodson Coach Andy Muir said. "That goal was crucial."