In the first five minutes of play between Westfield and No. 8 Madison on Wednesday morning at the Centreville Spring Break Tournament, offense emerged as the game’s dominant theme. During that brief stretch, each side rendered the other’s defense helpless as the two unbeaten teams combined for eight goals and endured scoreless stretches measured in seconds rather than minutes.
Within five minutes, Madison’s Kierra Sweeney had tallied three goals. By halftime, two players on each side had hat tricks. In a game destined for last-shot determination from the time the first shot went in 30 seconds into play, it was Sweeney who fired the final blow, scoring with fewer than two minutes left to give the Warhawks a 16-15 win.
“Everyone on our team has had [those high-scoring stretches], it’s just about when you’re in the right spot,” Sweeney said. “We expected a game like this. They’re a really good team, and they’ve had a lot of close games against the same teams we have. We knew we’d be even.”
The Bulldogs (5-1) matched or bettered the Warhawks’ furious scoring pace the entire way, controlling much of the possession in a first half in which Madison (7-0) scored early in possessions and spent much of its time trying to hold off Westfield attackers. Neither side had much success slowing the other, the high offensive output fostered by a game called tightly: officials judged the fine line between good defense and illegal contact was crossed most often toward the latter.
“Defense is something this group really relies on. Forcing turnovers is something we really try to do — within the bounds of the rules,” Warhawks Coach Amanda Counts said. “Today, we weren’t really allowed to try that all that often, but we had to recognize what to do when a goal down or a man down because of penalties, so we benefit a lot from seeing that.”
With goals coming by the second and momentum short-lived, the Bulldogs and Warhawks played through 13 ties and six lead changes. Four players had five goals or more: Westfield’s Molly O’Sullivan (6) and Grace Horgan (5) and Madison’s Sweeney (5) and Katie Sciandra (5). Neither side ever led by more than two, and the longest combined scoring drought lasted just more than three minutes, and came midway through the second half.
“I think something we’ve been coached with is when they get a score or when we make a mistake is that you turn around and fix it the next time,” said Maddie Roberts, who had a goal in the game. “It’s about what you do after the mistake. That’s something that’s ingrained in us, so I think that helps us be able to respond.”
By day’s end, the Warhawks had scored 53 total goals, following the win over Westfield with a 20-8 victory over Centreville and a 17-9 win over Lake Braddock. Madison’s winning streak is now 24 games.