There was not much time between Oakton’s rush to the goal to embrace goalie Gillian Townsend and the trophy presentation for the Cougars’ Virginia 6A North girls’ lacrosse region title following a 14-11 win against Westfield. But for a brief moment, before the parents flooded the turf with cameras and the Cougars started posing with the banner and trophy, the team gathered in a huddle and held up a No. 25 jersey in honor of defender Karlie Cronin, a starter who tore her anterior cruciate ligament a few weeks ago and had surgery Thursday.
“She’s an unbelievable defender, and we said this win was for Karlie because she couldn’t be here,” junior Lydia Montanino said.
Whether it was Cronin’s absence or the Bulldogs’ overwhelming energy that kept Oakton (14-2) a step behind for the first half, it was clear to the players and Coach Jean Counts that something needed to change. The Cougars led just once throughout a back-and-forth first half.
“Our shooters weren’t able to find the back of the net. We needed to rebound from that,” Counts said. “We needed a feel-good moment. When those sparks happen, you get good opportunities to create more.”
Every spark Oakton managed in the first half was quickly extinguished by Westfield (16-3), whose upset of Madison and “sic semper tyrannis” shirts (the Virginia motto roughly meaning “down with the tyrants”) made it clear that the Bulldogs were done with being second tier in the state’s lacrosse world.
“Coach pretty much said our performance was unacceptable,” Oakton senior Tori Anderson said of the halftime huddle. “We needed to come out with fire in the second half.”
Oakton got the edge when it started controlling the draws and its defense began crashing in on Westfield’s Molly O’Sullivan, who scored two goals, and Meghan Heick.
The longest span without a goal was 3 minutes 57 seconds toward the end of the game. The Cougars led by one, and with the energy building on the sidelines and a yellow card for each team, it became clear that whoever ended the brief scoring drought would likely take home the title.
Montanino picked up a rebound and wrapped a shot around the post for her fourth goal of the game with 3:41 left. Oakton would go on to score one more, but it was Montanino’s goal “that was just us pretty much gutting it in and proving that this was our win and our turf,” said Anderson, who scored three.
Senior Grace Horgan scored four for Westfield, and sophomore Kellie Cleveland had a hat trick.
Both teams have a shot at the state final — a game Oakton has played in four times and Westfield has yet to reach.
“If we have the opportunity to see them Saturday, we have to get consistent draws and play seamlessly,” Counts said. “And if we’re not seamless, we need to scrap as hard as we did tonight.”