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With mercy-rule win, Yorktown field hockey advances to state championship for first time

Fairfax loses in other Class 6 semifinal; Independence goes down in Class 5

Yorktown won Friday to advance to its first state championship match. (Becky Cullinan/Courtesy photo)
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After Yorktown scored, there was an unexpected whistle. Players and coaches paused for a second, bemused as they looked around. Then the Patriots, realizing what had happened, sprinted back to their goalie and enveloped her in a group hug on the field at Spotsylvania High.

Yorktown beat Grassfield, 7-1, by mercy rule in Friday’s Virginia Class 6 state semifinal — clinching the abbreviated win on a goal from senior forward Sydney Polly with over six minutes left in the fourth quarter. The Patriots will play Western Branch at Courtland High on Saturday in the first state championship appearance in program history.

“I think we knew that the game was pretty in the bag . . . so I think the reaction probably wasn’t as big as, like, some other ones have been in the past,” junior midfielder Emily Stafford said in a phone interview after the game. “I think it’s just an overall joy of just, like, reaching your goal.”

Stafford scored twice, the first off a stroke in the second quarter to give Yorktown (20-1) a 2-1 lead. By building that advantage to six goals, the Patriots triggered the mercy rule — even if they didn’t initially realize there was such a rule in place for this stage of the state tournament.

“Once we got [the first goal] . . . we got all the, like, jitters and nerves out,” Stafford said. “Each goal just felt better and better. It was just a really fun game.”

Yorktown Coach Olivia Shipley has been around these players for a long time, having coached some of them as early as eighth grade. She has interacted with them as they rose up at Yorktown, and she could sense early on that this year’s team could be special.

“It’s kind of been the expectation and the motivation to kind of be at this point with this group of girls,” she said.

That point is a state final against Western Branch, which defeated Fairfax, 2-0, in the other Class 6 semifinal, handing the Lions (24-1) their first loss of the season.

“It wasn’t anything the other team was doing,” Fairfax Coach Amber Beaudoin said of her team’s loss. “We were just off, and that’s the worst part.”

Independence comes up short

Before every game, Independence players write down their goals in a journal. Ahead of their Class 5 state semifinal matchup Friday, they wanted to start fast and get on the board quickly.

They were unable to do so, instead yielding a goal in the first quarter and being shut out, 2-0, against Frank Cox.

A strong defensive effort in which Independence (21-2) turned away 20 of 21 Cox penalty corner opportunities was not enough.

“They were able to kind of control the ball,” Coach Jennifer Darrow said. “We weren’t necessarily connecting our passes as well as we normally do.”

Frank Cox faces First Colonial High School in the Class 5 title game Saturday.

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