Woodgrove senior Tabitha McHale spent the final minutes of Friday’s Virginia AA girls’ soccer semifinal against Blacksburg seated on the bench with many of her starting teammates. In the shade of a large blue canopy, the group relished the chance to rest at the end of a 3-0 victory at Radford University.
Last spring, Woodgrove’s inaugural season ended with a disappointing loss to the Bruins on the same stage.
This time, McHale scored twice and junior Sarah Hardison added a goal and an assist as the Wolverines won convincingly to advance to Saturday’s state title game, where they will play Loudoun County for the fifth time this season.
“We wanted to beat them just to be like, ‘Look we deserved it last year, and we deserve it this year,’ ” McHale said. “Making it 3-0 gets us that revenge kind of thing. We like that.”
Woodgrove (23-0-1) struck early and dominated Blacksburg (22-1) from start to finish in a battle of unbeaten teams.
McHale put the Wolverines ahead to stay in the eighth minute, running on to a flick from Hardison before finishing the breakaway. The North Carolina-Greensboro-bound forward added another goal in the 35th minute off a cross from junior Victoria Perry.
Blacksburg senior goalie Anika Marand made several spectacular saves to keep her team close. But by the time Hardison turned a loose ball in front into her 17th goal of the season 11 minutes into the second half, the Wolverines were well on their way to the state final.
“If they were anticipating the same team that they [beat] last year, they were in for a surprise,” Woodgrove Coach Erin Barrett said. “We had that confidence going in that we knew we were a better team than last year.”
●LOUDOUN COUNTY 1, JEFFERSON FOREST 0: Freshman Allison Littell scored in the 77th minute to put the Raiders into their second Virginia AA final in three years with a semifinal victory over the Cavaliers at Radford University.
Littell’s strike assured Loudoun County one more chance at Woodgrove, which has won the first four meetings between the Dulles District foes this season.
“I knew I had to finish it,” Littell said of the winner. “It was the last three minutes of the game, and we couldn’t go to overtime.”
Loudoun County (18-4-2) controlled play, producing chance after chance, in the second half, but the game seemed headed for overtime until Littell’s goal broke the deadlock and put the Raiders one win from their first state title.
With less than four minutes left, senior Emma Sieber tossed a long throw in and senior forward Allison Bills directed it toward the top of the 18-yard box. After a few caroms in traffic, the bouncing ball found Littell’s foot.
The young midfielder connected solidly on the shot, and the ball sailed over the goalie and into the back of the net, setting off a relieved celebration with her teammates.
“We were knocking at the door quite a bit throughout the game,” Coach Kirk Smith said. “We were going high. We were going wide. Sometimes you just take those goals where it’s bouncing around like that.”
●BROAD RUN 1, DEEP RUN 0: Senior Darbie Kelley’s penalty kick in the fifth minute and a stout defensive effort was enough to propel the Spartans to their fifth straight title game. Broad Run (15-4-5) will face Cosby, which defeated Cox 6-1, on Saturday in the AAA final at Westfield.
From 2008 to 2011, Broad Run won a state record four consecutive AA titles – but larger enrollment pushed the school into the AAA classification. Injuries slowed the Spartans’ start this spring, but they’re once again playing for a championship.
“It doesn’t seem real to me,” Kelley said. “It’s amazing to be here again.”
Early in Friday’s game, Broad Run forward Dani Dangremond used her speed to sneak past a Deep Run defender and draw a foul. Kelley took the penalty kick, a low shot into the right corner of the goal.
●GEORGE MASON 2, JAMES RIVER-BUCHANAN 0: Senior Leah Roth and junior Maggie Mascarenhas scored second-half goals to power the Mustangs into another state final. George Mason (22-3) will go for its fifth consecutive state girls’ soccer title on Saturday morning against Region C champion Graham, which beat Clarke County, 2-1, at Radford.
In Friday’s semifinal, Roth — one of just two seniors on the George Mason roster — provided the breakthrough after a frustrating start with her area-leading 34th goal of the season. In the 51st minute, the Mary Washington-bound forward took a pass from sophomore Claire Trevisan, brought the ball down the right side of the field and snuck a low-angle shot inside the top corner of the net.
“I think [the younger players] were really nervous and didn’t want to mess up,” Roth said. “Once they figured out, it’s okay to mess up as long as we’re working hard, I think we got it.”
Mascarenhas added a 69th-minute insurance goal and freshman goalie Katie Cheney kept the Knights off the scoreboard with a six-save shutout as the young Mustangs earned the chance to play for their seventh state championship in program history.
Detweiler reported from Radford, Va.