VIRGINIA BEACH — Westfield’s Katie Winesett and Emily McNamara lingered outside field No. 1 at the National Field Hockey Training Center in Virginia Beach, embroiled in a back-and-forth quest to see how many consecutive air dribbles they could perform in a row.
It was the sort of mindless game that athletes of all sports partake in to soothe the nerves and sap the minutes before crunch time.
The stick skills involved translated seamlessly for both Westfield players when their 6A semifinal against Stafford finally began, and the duo played a key role in the Bulldogs’ 3-0 win. With the victory, No. 3 Westfield (21-2) advanced to Saturday’s final against First Colonial (22-1), a 2-0 winner over No. 10 Fairfax in Friday’s other semifinal.
Winesett opened the Bulldogs’ scoring by burying her own reboundsix minutes into the game, and McNamara highlighted the second-half with a goal off a pinpoint reverse chip. Senior Rachael Ulsh also scored.
Westfield dictated the game’s pace from the onset, outshooting Stafford six to zero during the first half.
“Pace is everything,” Winesett said. “Whoever controls the pace, controls the game. If you have them on their heels, you easily do splits and get around them, and just make nice transfers down the field.”
The last time Westfield made the beach trip for states, back in 2011, it was cut short with a 3-1 loss to those same Indians.
“It’s just amazing to be back here again, especially during my senior year,” Winesett said. “It was devastating to leave [early last time].”
Westfield got an early peek at Saturday’s opponent during a scrimmage against First Colonial in August.
“We haven’t been able to scout them to see what they’ve become, but when we played them during the beginning of the season it was a pretty even match,” McNamara said. “We weren’t even settled into what we are now. All of our positions were messed up, and we were just figuring it out.”
The Bulldogs’ best chance is keeping Saturday’s title bout in perspective, Winesett said.
“If we just treat this as any other game, not ‘this is First Colonial and states,’ I think that we can play our game and beat them,” she said.
But regardless of Saturday’s outcome, this Westfield team is sowing memories.
“It’s something they’re going to remember for the rest of their lives,” Westfield Coach Starr Karl said. “I couldn’t be happier for this group of girls.”
For 43 minutes and change, the Rebels (19-5) held the circle. Despite taking no corners or shots during a first half that saw the Patriots accrue five and nine, respectively, Fairfax’s defense never broke.
“Going into the game, we knew that there was going to be a lot of pressure on us, because [First Colonial] had scored so many goals,” Fairfax defender Sara Allen said.
First Colonial finally broke through with Savannah Sheridan’s one-touch tally with 16 minutes, 31 seconds left to play in the game. The Patriots tacked on another goal two minutes later to close out the scoring.
“I was really sure that we were going to be able to pull through,” Allen said. “I thought that we maybe would have gone into overtime, but of course bad things happen.”