Tori Birks emerged in front of her Potomac Falls teammates, running toward her coach, and getting ready to leap.
The father-daughter duo used to celebrate with a hip check, but that tradition stopped after the time she shattered the glasses in his pocket. Now, the senior goes with the shoulder bump, and for her final time in a Panthers uniform, she and Coach Jim Birks soared high in the air in celebration of a 12-9 victory over Marshall and a second consecutive Virginia 5A state championship.
Tori Birks called the experience of playing for her father “a blessing and a curse” — a sentiment shared by senior teammates Kelsey Curl and Molly DeCarli and sophomore Madelyn DeCarli, whose fathers, Jerry Curl and Brian DeCarli, are assistant coaches.
On a hot Saturday afternoon at Robinson in Fairfax, those players helped Potomac Falls (18-1) exact revenge against Marshall after falling to the Statesmen in overtime of the Virginia 5A North region final June 1. In Saturday’s title victory, Curl scored five goals and Birks added four, while Molly DeCarli keyed a strong effort in the circle.
“Our chemistry — we know what each other is going to do,” Tori Birks said. “I know what they’re going to do before maybe they even know they’re going to do it. That helps us read each other. It’s unstoppable.”
“We just know what’s going to happen on the draw,” DeCarli said. “We plan it out, we do little head movements and everything. We know we’re in control of this. We just know we have this confidence, we play our game.”
Marshall (16-4), which lost to Potomac Falls in last year’s final, tied the game at 4 heading into intermission when sophomore Emma Smith took a pass from Jane Hurley and scored with five seconds remaining in the half. Sophomore Claire Cwalina scored four goals and senior Hannah Smith added three in a back-and-forth game in which the Statesmen led early in the second half.
Facing a 6-5 deficit, the Panthers bounced back. Senior Karis Roberts (two goals) tied the game, and Curl and Birks helped the team take a lead and tack on insurance goals.
“It should’ve been a three-peat, since we beat them last year, they really wanted to bring it out this year,” Curl said. “But we were not going to let them — from the regional championship, we really wanted this game.”
After the game, seniors Curl, Birks and DeCarli — wearing jersey Nos. 11, 12 and 13, respectively — lined up alongside their teammates and in front of their fathers, holding up the championship banner.
A senior class that began playing with each other for a club team in fourth grade stood together for the final time as high school teammates.
“These girls are amazing,” Jim Birks shouted, as they smiled and posed for pictures.