If No. 3 Westfield needed any added motivation heading into Thursday’s 6A North field hockey final against No. 10 Fairfax, it found it on the back of a paper napkin last weekend at Ford’s Fish Shack in Chantilly.
“I get this note from the waitress,” Bulldogs Coach Starr Karl said. “She said, ‘I had to wait until the patron left, but they wanted me to deliver this to you.’”
“You’re going down Thursday night! Go Rebels!” the handwritten note read .
Karl waited until Tuesday night (when she knew her squad would in fact face Fairfax in the final), then showed them the anonymous serviette. She made 100 copies of the note Wednesday. Senior captain Rachael Ulsh handled the rest, scoring both goals in a 2-1 overtime win.
Each game without fail, Ulsh provides her teammates with a gift that’s in line with the Bulldogs’ team motto: “Keep smiling and keep shining.” Ulsh checked off the shine by laminating the notes, which the Bulldogs tucked inside their shin guards for Thursday’s game.
Besides providing the trinkets, Ulsh doled out all of Westfield’s scoring, including the game-winner with 10 minutes, 57 seconds left to play in overtime as the Bulldogs prevailed in Fairfax City.
Ulsh credited an overtime win over McLean in the regional quarterfinals with prepping the Bulldogs (20-2) for the pace of seven-on-seven play in the extra period.
“We knew we couldn’t play scared; we just had to go at it,” Ulsh said. “We always say it’s a new game when seven-a-side starts.”
Fairfax’s Jessica Bachelder broke a scoreless tie with 7:59 to play in regulation. Three minutes later, Westfield’s Molly O’Sullivan drew a penalty stroke after being tripped up by Fairfax goalie Mack Anderson on a fast break.
Ulsh — the team’s designated stroke taker — pushed a no-doubter to the top right-hand side of the net, knotting the score at one.
“That wasn’t really what I was going for,” said O’Sullivan of the preceding play. “I was just going to try to pull the ball around. But she just happened to slide-tackle me. I didn’t think it was going to be a stroke. But I was happy to risk my body for the goal.”
Anderson came off her line and dove with a double-leg stack in a clearing attempt. She maintains that she claimed some ball along with O’Sullivan.
“That ball was out in front and when I went through I hit the ball and her feet.” Anderson said. “What [the referee] saw was that I went through her feet first.”
In overtime, Westfield won possession early and never let go. Ulsh started the game-winning play by sending in a corner, then clung by the right post where she one-touched a feed from O’Sullivan.
“On corners, that’s my job to stay on the post,” Ulsh said. “Someone sends it far post and I just try to tap it in. Luckily I was there.”
Both teams advance to the 6A state tournament on Friday, Nov. 15 at 2 p.m. Westfield will play the loser of Stafford and First Colonial, who face off Friday night for the 6A South Region title. Fairfax (19-4) will play the winner.
Karl isn’t expecting the Indians or Patriots to provide her squad with any additional locker room material.
“I looked at [that note], and I went, ‘Are you kidding me?’ This is the kind of stuff that just fuels my fire,” she said.