The day before Oakton's sixth-ranked girls' lacrosse team took the field for the Virginia AAA Concorde District championship game against 10th-ranked Westfield, Coach Jean Counts had her players lie on their backs during practice and close their eyes.
"She had us visualize everything," Oakton junior defender Paige Keffer said. "From getting on the bus, to warming up, to having a great warm-up and to going out there and making great passes and scoring great goals. All we thought about doing were great things."
The Cougars turned their mental images into reality yesterday by winning their first district tournament title with a 9-7 victory over host Westfield, which lost in the final for the second consecutive season.
Oakton (15-2) now has its sights on a bigger prize -- the Northern Region tournament -- which begins on Thursday with the Cougars hosting Lake Braddock in the first round and Westfield (12-3) hosting West Springfield.
Although six Cougars scored, no one had a bigger role than senior Kelly Kimener. Kimener, the only Oakton player who played when the Cougars made their first appearance in a district tournament final (a 2001 loss to Centreville), scored a game-high four goals as she alternated between playing midfield and defense.
"We worked for this all season, and I think we really proved something," said Kimener, who has scored a team-high 37 goals this season. "Now that we've won our first district title, we have a real spark in our team and our goal is to win region and states."
The Oakton boys, the defending unofficial state champions, had little trouble completing a sweep, as junior midfielder Bobby Fitton scored a game-high four goals to lead his team to a 13-2 victory over Jefferson and its fourth consecutive district title.
Sophomore attackman Donald Murphy had two goals and three assists and senior attackman Quinn Cooke had a goal and two assists as Oakton (11-2) had 10 players score at least one goal and never trailed.
The girls' team, however, had to rally. The Cougars gave up the game's first three goals in fewer than seven minutes, prompting Counts to call a timeout.
"A couple of bad things happened early," Counts said. "And when you have the senior leadership that we have, you have to persevere and get back in the game."
And that's just what the Cougars did. They scored seven of the game's next eight goals -- including three by Kimener -- to take a 7-4 lead at intermission. They extended it to 8-4 after Kimener opened the second-half scoring.