Entering each of the last three seasons, the expectation for Stone Bridge’s girls’ soccer team has been simple and uncompromised: win a state title. The bar was set in 2010, when a freshman corps led by two-time All-Met Player of the Year Murielle Tiernan and the school’s all-time leading scorer, Ashley Herndon, spurred the Bulldogs to their first championship.
But with Tiernan, Herndon and four other starters who accounted for 76 percent of the team’s scoring now graduated, Bulldogs Coach Joan Windows again finds herself reloading with a talented unit of freshmen. Through its first three games, Stone Bridge has outscored opponents, 10-0, with freshmen forwards Emily Fox, who has played with the U.S. U-15 national team, and Alexandra Addington accounting for five goals.
“One of the nice things about this team is there’s very good chemistry and that’s been a pleasant surprise in terms of how well they have jelled, because they haven’t really played together that long,” Windows said. “But I wasn’t surprised as far as the talent level because these girls are very good players.”
Perhaps the team’s biggest surprise has been the play of junior goalkeeper Hailey Corpe. After playing on the JV team last year and with incumbent varsity starter Natalie Grundler returning, the junior didn’t expect to see the field much this season. But after Grundler changed course in the final week of the preseason and elected not to play, Corpe was thrust into the starting role as the last line of defense for a team featuring a wealth of new faces.
“Beforehand, I was really nervous and stressed out about how I would do,” said Corpe, who has 11 saves. “But once the game started, I ended it up feeling like a regular game and relaxed. For the team, I didn’t have low expectations with Ashley and Murielle gone, but I didn’t have extremely high expectations because I knew we had to get used to playing together. So far, things have gone really well.”
Along with sound passing and aggressive play on both ends of the field, the Bulldogs have displayed strong on-field communication behind the likes of Corpe and defender Megan Della Penna. The senior missed all but two games last season after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in her knee, and though she admits feeling some anxiety about how her leg would hold up in the first few games, Della Penna now feels comfortable with both her ability and the team’s potential.
“It was tough not being able to play last year, but it was good to see others step up and our team be successful,” Della Penna said. “For being such a new team this year, we’ve worked together and done well with learning how each other plays on the field.”
As the Bulldogs prep for two games this week before spring break, both Windows and her players maintain a cautious optimism at this early juncture of the season, as games against unbeaten South Lakes, No. 2 Briar Woods, No. 3 Broad Run and No. 7 Tuscarora still loom in the second half of their schedule.
“We just want to keep our mindset right because we don’t want to think we’re amazing after just a few games and get too overconfident,” Corpe said. “But it’s encouraging to see how things have started.”
Freshman Kayla Hamric scored four goals in Battlefield’s 8-0 win against Freedom-Woodbridge on Tuesday. . . . Broad Run has outscored opponents 19-0 while Tuscarora (Va.) has built a scoring margin of 17-0. The two teams will face off on April 22. . . . Yorktown will be without goalkeeper Monica Thom for about six weeks after she broke her wrist in a club soccer game. . . . Since losing its season opener, Forest Park has won five straight games, including a 1-0 victory against then-No. 1 Chantilly on Friday.
1. Battlefield (5-0) LW: 2
2. Briar Woods (3-0) LW: 3
3. Broad Run (5-0) LW: 8
4. Forest Park (5-1) LW: 9
5. Chantilly (3-2) LW: 1
6. W.T. Woodson (5-1) LW: 4
7. Tuscarora (Va.) (6-0) LW: NR
8. Westfield (3-1) LW: 5
9. Yorktown (4-1) LW: 10
10. Loudoun County (4-2) LW: 7
Dropped out: No. 6 Woodbridge
On the bubble: South Lakes (5-0-1), Stone Bridge (3-0), Woodbridge (4-2)
Records through Tuesday.