The Westfield boys' soccer team has strived all season for respect. After defeating Yorktown in the Virginia AAA Northern Region tournament semifinal Wednesday, the Bulldogs believe they have finally garnered it.
"I certainly think we have a little bit more respect now," Westfield Coach Tom Torres said. "To make it to the final two in the Northern Region is a feat for anyone."
The Bulldogs are 8-0-3 in their last 11 games after struggling at the beginning of the season, Torres's first as head coach. One of those early losses was a 6-0 setback on March 19 against W.T. Woodson, the Bulldogs' opponent in tonight's final.
"I think we sent a message to the whole region that we're the team to beat now," Bulldogs senior Zach Fernandes said following Westfield's semifinal win. "We're going to give Woodson our best shot. They beat us 6-0 last time, but I think this time the score will be different."
W.T. Woodson Coach Richard Broad hopes his team avoids a letdown after Wednesday's win over previously unbeaten Lake Braddock. He expects Westfield to be ready for the rematch.
"Make no mistake about it," Broad said. "We played them earlier in the season, but this is not the same team we played earlier in the season."
North Stafford's Goal
Tonight, the top-ranked North Stafford girls will try to do what no team from outside the teams currently in the Virginia AAA Cardinal District has done in more than 10 seasons: win the Northwestern Region title.
The Wolverines, who avenged a loss in last year's region final by beating Cardinal District runner-up Gar-Field in the semifinals, have perhaps the best chance of any North Stafford team in recent memory to take the championship. Led by senior All-Met forward Brittany Croce, North Stafford (19-0-1) completed its first undefeated regular season in school history and remained unscathed in the postseason.
Standing in North Stafford's way, predictably, is a Cardinal team, district champion Forest Park. The No. 3 Bruins (12-1-3) have not lost since their season-opening game and will arguably be the toughest team North Stafford has faced.
"I hope the [Cardinal] domination continues," Forest Park Coach Dave Cresswell said. "Gar-Field found a way to beat a good North Stafford team last year. Hopefully, we will be able to do the same."
Stone Bridge Progresses
When the season began, they set their goal of winning a state championship, a goal that may have seemed a bit farfetched to those on the outside. After all, they had never been to a state or region tournament. In fact, they had never had much success in their own district tournament.
But with just over a week left in the season, the goal for the No. 9 Stone Bridge girls remains firmly in place and, as the year has progressed, they have made believers out of their followers.
The Bulldogs took a giant step toward fulfilling their aspirations with a 2-0 AA Region II semifinal win over Western Albemarle on Wednesday. The victory guarantees Stone Bridge a spot in the state playoffs as well as a chance to capture its first region title if it can defeat Dulles District rival Potomac Falls tonight.
"Early in the season we knew we had the personnel and a team that could do it," said second-year coach Jim Felix. "No matter what happens against Potomac Falls, they could be one week away from a state championship."
Regardless of what the coming week brings, the Bulldogs, have been a remarkable success. In their first three seasons, they won a total of six games. But the program has grown considerably under Felix, winning 10 games in 2004 and reaching new heights this year.
Their biggest obstacle may be squarely in front of them. They have never defeated the No. 4 Panthers but have played them tough this season, earning a draw and twice falling 1-0, one of those coming in the district championship.
Felix has made one change that will give Potomac Falls a new look. He has moved All-Met goalie Mary Jo Loos to a forward position for the playoffs to add scoring punch. Loos has three goals in two regional playoff games and goalie Alex Traughber has earned shutouts in both contests.
Special correspondent Charlie Moss contributed to this report