The South County field hockey players have two rocking horses they tote to games and even pass back and forth during the school day when they encounter each other in the hallways.
The wooden mascots were on hand Thursday night at Washington-Lee for the Virginia AAA Northern Region semifinals against Fairfax, but the Stallions were not quite ready to ride them into the sunset, not with a state tournament berth and a shot at defending their region championship on the line.
Sophomore Abby English scored the game’s lone goal about seven minutes into the 15-minute, sudden-death overtime to lift her team to a third region final appearance in four years.
South County, which has knocked Fairfax out of the region tournament each of the past four seasons, will advance to face Westfield, a 6-0 winner over West Springfield in the second semifinal, at 6 p.m. Saturday in the championship at Washington-Lee. It is a repeat of last year’s region final.
Both South County (17-5), the region champ in 2009 and last season, and Westfield (19-2) have qualified for the state tournament that begins Tuesday.
South County senior forward Alexis Schramm assisted English on her game-winner. At the time of the goal, Fairfax (19-2) was down a player because of a penalty and was also trying to substitute.
“That’s why I think I was wide open,” said English, who didn’t immediately realize that the game was in sudden death and that she had not only give her team the lead, but the win.
“At first, I was wondering if I was even in the circle and if it counted or not,” English said. “And then I saw everyone running towards me, so I just freaked out.”
“And then we realized we’re going to states,” Schramm added.
South County Coach Leah Conte, who lost nine seniors off the 2011 region champion team, thought the Stallions played their best defensive game of the season Thursday. In addition, they had 10 penalty corners, double the number that Fairfax had. Each team took four shots.
Fairfax Coach Amber Beaudoin was not pleased with the foul call that left her team a player short-handed in the seven-on-seven overtime. All four losses to South County in the playoffs the last four years have been by one goal.
This loss “definitely hurts the worst,” said Fairfax senior midfielder Shannon Cosgrove, a four-year starter who was one of several emotional Rebels after the game. “The girls a year above us, since we were so close to beating [South County] last year, they were really pulling for us and all week they’ve been texting us. It’s just hard to go back and tell them that we lost again.”
In the second game, Westfield stormed past West Springfield (16-4-1), the Bulldogs’ eighth straight win by four or more goals, and their 15th such victory this season. Junior Katie Winesett had three goals and two assists, and senior Kelly Duncan had two goals. All-Met senior midfielder Meghan Winesett, Katie’s cousin, had a goal and an assist.
“They’re just clicking,” Westfield Coach Starr Karl said, “and they’re feeding off of what we practice every day. I think the biggest difference this year is our front line. We’re able to finish this year. We know where to be, and we’re finishing when we get in there.”