Ashley Herndon, left, and Stone Bridge are still unbeaten and have their sights set on their first state championship since 2010. (Toni L. Sandys/THE WASHINGTON POST)

The stakes are still high and the goal remains the same, but for Stone Bridge seniors Ashley Herndon and Murielle Tiernan, this spring’s quest for a state title has a different vibe.

As freshmen in 2010, the forward duo say they didn’t fully appreciate the Bulldogs’ undefeated run to the Virginia AAA state title. It wasn’t until the last two seasons, when they came up just short, that Herndon and Tiernan truly understood the hunger for and difficulty of winning another crown.

“After we won it as freshmen, we thought about how cool it would be to win it as seniors, so when we lost the last two years, we could always say, ‘OK, there’s always senior year,’” said Tiernan, a Virginia Tech recruit with a team-high 16 goals. “But this is it, so we are definitely motivated.”

But while the naivety is gone, unlike in 2010, the proverbial target is now zeroed in on the area’s top-ranked team.

“I think we kind of shocked some people before, so these playoffs will probably be harder with a lot of teams looking to knock us off,” said Herndon, a James Madison recruit with 15 goals.

After battling injuries all season long, the Bulldogs hope that health will be on their side come Monday, when the Liberty District playoffs begin. Defenders Megan Della Penna (torn ACL), Corinne Giroux (hip injury) and midfielder Emily Person (torn ACL last season) have all missed time this year, forcing Bulldogs Coach Joan Windows to try different rotations and lineups.

The Bulldogs have still responded, pulling out two overtime wins while only once allowing more than one goal in a contest.

“If we can keep doing what we have been doing and rely on our team chemistry to hang in there and hopefully stay healthy, we should be able to reach our goal,” Herndon said. “We learned as freshmen that anything is possible, and it would be awesome to have that amazing feeling of winning it again.”

While Stone Bridge has its 2010 title experience to draw on, Westfield, the area’s second-ranked team, remains motivated to earn its first banner of any kind.

The Bulldogs have shown their mettle, securing the first unbeaten season in school history while outscoring opponents, 33-11. Westfield will again serve as the host site for the Concorde District and state finals.

“Home field is nice in some ways, but in the playoffs, anything can happen, so we have to stay prepared and ready to battle,” Westfield Coach Kristi Williams said. “But I will say from experience that it’s doubly painful to have the final at your school and not be playing in it.”

Along with the scoring of Brittany Fary (11 goals) and leadership of the team’s four senior captains, Williams lauded the contributions of junior midfielder Katherine Bukovsky, sophomore defender Emma Lark and junior midfielder Tori Donahue, whom Williams called “the engine of the midfield” after embracing a switch from the forward position.

Following a first-round bye, Westfield will play Wednesday at home against either Robinson or Centreville.

“One of our mottos is ‘Whatever we did yesterday can’t be enough,’” Williams said. “Now the real season begins and the kids have done a good job of wanting more, working harder and never settling for whatever’s already happened.”

The Post Top 10

Stone Bridge (Liberty), Westfield (Concorde) and Yorktown (National) have locked up the top seed in their respective district tournaments next week. . . . Should Forest Park and Woodbridge win their regular-season finales, they will face off at 7 p.m. Monday at Potomac to determine the top seed in the Cardinal District. . . . Since a season-opening, 2-2 tie against Tuscarora (Va.), Loudoun County has allowed just one goal.

1. Stone Bridge (11-0-2) LW: 1

2. Westfield (12-0-1) LW: 2

3. Battlefield (14-1) LW: 3

4. Chantilly (8-2-3) LW: 4

5. Yorktown (13-1) LW:5

6. Forest Park (11-3-1) LW: 6

7. Briar Woods (10-2-1) LW: 7

8. Woodbridge (13-2) LW: 8

9. Tuscarora (Va.) (10-0-4) LW: 10

10. Loudoun County (9-0-3) LW: 9

Bubble: Patriot (13-1-2), Dominion (9-2-2), Woodgrove (10-4-1), South County (6-4-2)

Records throughTuesday’s games

Related: Jackie McKenna saves the day as Tuscarora fends off Woodgrove

More: Mount Vernon’s Simond Kargbo finds solace on the pitch after parents’ death

Schedule: Girls | Boys

Standings: Girls | Boys

Statistics: Girls | Boys

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