As his team practiced for its regional semifinal game, Stuart boys’ soccer Coach Dylan Forshay was approached by one of the younger players. The player asked Forshay to explain to him how the regional tournament works.
“He just didn’t know,” Forshay said with a laugh. “I put it to him in terms of the European Champions League, and he got it.”
It had been a long time since Stuart had to navigate postseason soccer in late May, so you can’t blame the player for his unfamiliarity. The Raiders won their district this season for the first time in 26 years and carried that success into regionals. All of it was new for the second-year coach and his squad.
“This just doesn’t happen a ton in our building,” Forshay said.
The biggest and most dramatic game of this unexpected season came on Wednesday against T.C. Williams in the Class 6 Region C semifinals. A scoreless tie spilled over into extra time and then penalty kicks. After hours of tension, the Raiders got a game-winning stop from senior goalkeeper Jose Machado, and Forshay got a Gatorade bath.
Stuart was officially headed to the state tournament.
“He’s just been so locked in,” Forshay said of Machado. “He’s a leader for us, and he leads by passion and emotion.”
But the Raiders didn’t stop there. On Friday night, they topped West Potomac, 1-0, for their first regional title in 27 years. Senior Angel Servellon Mejia found the net early, and the Raiders tightened up their defense to hold on for the win.
The Raiders’ run has attracted plenty of attention at the Falls Church school and, after the game, a horde of red-clad fans and students stormed the field to celebrate.
Friday night also provided one of the season’s best matchups: No. 1 Oakton vs. No. 2 South Lakes in the Class 6 Region D championship. Both teams have been superb this season, and although state playoff spots were already secured, the Cougars and Seahawks battled for both a regional title and the right to remain undefeated.
The Cougars jumped to an early 2-0 lead and got even more momentum when goalkeeper Jonny Silver, back after missing the semifinals because of illness, saved a penalty kick in the first half. That replicated their start against Yorktown in the regional semifinals, but there would be no extra time in this game. A 2-1 final gave Oakton its first regional title since 2013.
“We played well. We played our game,” Coach Ralph Perkins said. “[South Lakes] is athletic, and they have a lot of very good individual players that can take a game over.”
The Cougars will have a state quarterfinal matchup with West Potomac on Tuesday, while South Lakes will face red-hot Stuart.
“It’s not as much about us preparing for them; it’s about preparing to play the way we’ve played all year long,” Perkins said of the matchup with the Panthers.
In the Class 5 bracket, Briar Woods and Wakefield went to penalty kicks in the Region C final, with the Falcons coming out on top for a 1-0 win. The upstart Warriors are on a surprising postseason run, while Briar Woods (19-1-0) has been a model of consistency this season.
Wakefield will face Region D champion Albemarle in the state quarterfinals, while Briar Woods takes on Mountain View.
Loudoun Valley continues its remarkable turnaround season with a Class 4 quarterfinal match against Charlottesville on Tuesday. The Vikings won the Region C championship game, 1-0, against John Handley on Friday on junior Max Breitenthaler’s first-half goal. It was the first regional championship in team history.
“No doubt we’re excited about it, but they’re not done,” Coach Sean Welge said of his team. “They’re playing like they want to go all the way.”
The Vikings have been unstoppable since they suffered their first loss May 3. They won the Dulles District title on a 93rd-minute score from sophomore Jefferson Martinez, then didn’t allow a goal in regional play.
“They responded remarkably,” Welge said. “They responded professionally. We knew how to handle losing from some years past.”
In Class 3, Region B runner-up Manassas Park takes on Tabb in the state quarterfinals. In the Class 2 quarterfinals, Region B runner-up George Mason begins the hunt for its ninth state title Tuesday against Maggie Walker.