“Your first time in the state semis, it’s really easy to get star-struck,” Langley Coach Katie Robinson said. “We still had that star-struck moment — when you realize what you’re playing for — but this year we settled down quickly and got the ball rolling.”
Powered Friday by three goals from junior Hannah Abele, Langley (19-1-1) will face Kellam (18-4) at noon Saturday. The Virginia Beach school beat Woodson, 3-1, in the other semifinal.
Langley’s opponent in its 2018 semifinal, First Colonial, had appeared in eight consecutive state championship games and had won three titles in that span. The Saxons, aware of their lack of experience, allowed themselves to be intimidated.
Chesapeake’s Western Branch (16-6) did not carry the same daunting reputation, and Langley came in with most of last year’s team intact. From the moment the first pass connected Friday, the Saxons sensed a difference.
“Last year, we came out with the mentality of ‘Let’s keep the game as close as possible; let’s try as hard as we can,’ ” senior Maddie McGaughey said. “This year, we came out with the goal to win, and you could see that right away.”
Less than seven minutes in, senior Bella Holloman broke through for the first goal by chipping in a rebound. Before the end of the first half, Abele had added another. That 2-0 halftime lead left Langley both confident and nervous, Robinson said.
“We told ourselves, ‘We really need to put this one away and not give them any chance to come back,’ ” senior Mikayla Schoff said.
The Saxons did just that behind two more goals from Abele, giving her a hat trick and her team a berth in the state championship game.
“The whole game, our goal was very clear,” junior Chloe Reed said. “Everyone looked around and said: ‘This is our second chance. We deserve to be here. We can do it.’ ”
In the other semifinal, Woodson (18-2) fell after a back-and-forth first half suddenly turned on the Cavaliers. With seven minutes left in the half, Kellam scored twice in 18 seconds to grab a 2-0 lead.
Woodson regrouped at halftime, leading to a goal by senior Margaret Stephan 27 seconds into the second half that halved the deficit. But Kellam answered with a goal, and despite a handful of shots on goal, Woodson could not convert again.
“I saw a lot of heart and determination from this team,” Woodson Coach Katie Stribling said. “Despite how it ended, we had a season to be proud of.”
In the Class 1-3 semifinal, Independence fell, 4-0, to Poquoson (19-1). In the first year of the Ashburn school’s existence, the Tigers (14-7) made a surprise run to the state tournament despite fielding a roster with no seniors. The school does not have a senior class.