Katie Checkosky crawled back and forth in the penalty box, watching the clock and directing her teammates as she eagerly waited to get back on the field.
The senior had already notched five goals, but the Robinson Rams didn’t need that offense in the final minutes of the Virginia 6A state semifinal against Langley. They needed stops, which Maddie Malone provided plenty of in a 13-9 road victory Tuesday night in McLean.
The senior goalie notched nine saves — the last three during that penalty — as two-time defending state champion Robinson advanced to Saturday’s final against Centreville.
For Malone, the secret to handling the pressure is music. She sings in her head, and her song of choice Tuesday was “Demons” by Imagine Dragons.
“It’s just something to help keep me calm, because it’s hard for goalies not to get in their heads. It’s a very isolated job,” Malone said. “I just had to stay strong for my teammates.”
The No. 10 Rams (17-5) lost to Langley, 10-9, in the 6A North region semifinal May 24 and had revenge on their minds heading into the rematch. After trailing 3-1, they went on a 7-0 run that ended up being the difference. Four of those goals were from Checkosky — including three in a 57-second span — as Robinson took an 8-4 lead into halftime.
The No. 4 Saxons (21-1) chipped away in the second half as they tried to keep their unbeaten season alive. Emma Crooks scored three goals and Anna Hofgard scored twice to cut Robinson’s lead to 12-9 with 8:49 remaining.
But the Rams responded with patient possessions and sturdy defense. Checkosky assisted a goal by freshman Hannah Book to extend the lead, and after going to the penalty box, Robinson survived Langley’s player-advantage and wasted away the final minutes.
Senior Elli Kluegel flicked the ball in the air before the final horn sounded, then the players rushed toward the goal and celebrated with the anchor of their defense. Malone, who split time in net last season, is slated to get her first start in a state championship game.
“I’m ecstatic,” Malone said. “I’m super proud for my teammates and myself. We worked really hard throughout the season, and I think they deserve it.”
Before the game, the players passed around markers and wrote “III” on their wrists, signifying their goal of securing a third consecutive title. Now, they’re one game away from making that a reality, and advancing against the team they watched celebrate on their home field two weeks ago made it all the sweeter, Kluegel said.
“We held on to that feeling, and we used it as motivation to get back on top,” Kluegel said. “We did get knocked down, but what I think is the bigger statement is, we came back.”
Centreville clinched a spot in the state final with a 14-5 road victory over Colonial Forge in Stafford. The Wildcats (15-6) are seeking their first title since winning consecutive championships in 2000 and 2001.