For the Raiders, losing wasn’t an option; not after all five of the team’s defeats last spring came at the hands of the Wolverines, including a shutout loss in the Virginia AA state championship game.
“It was extremely frustrating losing from the regular season to district to region to state,” Raiders junior Emily Beatty said. “We felt like we brought the same energy every time and kept getting knocked down, so we came in here with a big chip on our shoulder.”
Perhaps that’s why after sealing a 1-0 victory in Tuesday’s AA Dulles District clash in Purcellville, the Raiders screamed and jumped into each other’s arms, all seemingly free of the weight that held them down last season.
Beatty netted the decisive goal with 10 minutes 36 seconds into the first half, stealing the ball from a Woodgrove defender in the box before taking a shot that found the back of the net.
From there, the Raiders (3-0-1, 2-0-1 AA Dulles) stayed on the offensive, recording 15 corner kicks and taking nearly 30 shots on goal. Meantime, the No. 9 Wolverines (4-2, 1-2), who were without top senior Brittany Basinger, who was out of town, struggled to find rhythm on both ends of the field.
“We took control early and we possessed the ball,” Raiders Coach Kirk Smith said. “This is a young group with just two seniors and these girls knew of course that this was the team that basically ended their season, so we didn’t have to say much to get them motivated.”
Along with Beatty, speedy sophomore midfielder Emily Littell found space in the Woodgrove defense to muster shots along the edges and open up breakaways. On the other end, Raiders freshman defender Ryan Oliver shadowed Woodgrove leading scorer Sarah Hardison to minimize the scoring opportunities that so often doomed the Raiders last season.
Woodgrove senior goalkeeper Maggie Buxton kept the Wolverines within striking distance, recording 23 saves on an array of diving stops and deflections among a crowd of players.
In the final two minutes, a scrum in front of the Loudoun County net nearly resulted in an equalizer, but after the ball squirted around and bounced off several players, the Raiders cleared, sealing their second district win.
“It feels great to finally get a win against Woodgrove and I felt like we came out stronger as a team for what we knew would be a challenge,” Beatty said. “Hopefully, we can keep things going in the right direction.”