Make it four for champion Saints

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Make it four for champion Saints
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Reilly Woodman could not have picked a better time to score her 100th goal of the season for St. Stephens / St. Agnes.    

After trailing by as many as six early in the second half, the senior attackers centenary tally with 17 minutes 45 seconds to play in Saturdays state final against Collegiate gave the top-ranked Saints an 11-10 lead their first since the game was just 2-1 and reason to believe.

From there, the three-time defending champions, empowered by the goal-advantage, never relented, held off the No. 2 Cougars for a thrilling 13-12 victory at Episcopals Hummel Bowl and a fourth straight Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association crown.

Also Saturday afternoon, in Norfolk, the Saints boys squad won its second state title in four years, beating St. Annes-Belfield 10-6.

The win in Alexandria made another neat double for the Saints (25-3) girls lacrosse program, complementing their 16th straight league championship from four days earlier and showing a mettle that few SS/SA teams have needed in the recent past.

Asked if any of her previous teams had ever mounted a comeback as large as Saturdays second-half turnaround, Saints head coach Kathleen Jenkinss response was a quick one.

Never, never, Jenkins said.

They did not want to lose, said the Saints coach. They did not want to be the class that lost the state tournament.

To that end, the Saints, quite justifiably, spared little energy to celebrate any of their first six scores that preceded Woodmans go-ahead goal. The unseemly 9-3 deficit at halftime made the task at hand pretty clear.

We just had to turn it on and play our game, said senior midfield playmaker Kelsey Horton.

Thirty-five seconds after the interval, Horton set up Woodman for the first of seven Saints goals in as many minutes to open the second half. The comeback included a blitz of four goals in just 86 seconds.

We needed to make a change quick, otherwise it might have become a hole so big we cant find our way out, Woodman said of the rally.

Taelor Salmons game-winning goal with 3:26 to play and the ensuing draw control let the Alexandria side salt away the games dying minutes.

But during the first half, the Cougars (20-4) had the Saints looking like anything but a championship team and nothing like the squad that beat them by 10 more than a month ago.

A 12-11 win against Episcopal in Fridays semifinal spoiling the chance of an all-Alexandria state final had the Cougars fired up for the championship game, according to head coach Annie Richards.
Relying on aggressive pressure for loose balls, Collegiate stymied the Saints for much of the first half, keeping them from gaining any rhythm, and took the lead for the first time at 3-2 with 10:28 left.

Five minutes later, the Cougars pounced on a two-player advantage when SS/SA midfielders Michelle Phillips and Carly Reed saw yellow cards. They stretched the lead to 6-2 before the Saints reached even strength.

We had an absolutely brilliant first half and our kids were just ready to play, Richards said.

The Cougars also held a 14-10 advantage in shots at intermission. Their opponents, who put together a near-perfect game the day before, beating Potomac 20-6 in the other semifinal, were nowhere near top form.

Thats the best Ive seen Collegiate play, Jenkins said. They wanted to win all the 50-50 balls and the draws we had a hard time adjusting to their speed and their height.

However, Jenkinss team made all the right adjustments by the time the second half began, scoring 10 second-half goals and showing a resilience they did not muster less than two weeks before when they found themselves in a similar position against Baltimore power Notre Dame Prep.

Led by Woodmans five goals, the Saints got three goals and four assists from Salmon, four goals from Reed and four assists from Horton, the area leader with 116 on the season.

Katie Mastopieri and Carter Hunter keyed the Collegiate attack with three goals and an assist apiece.

After collecting her fourth state championship trophy in as many years, Horton, who is headed to play lacrosse at Maryland next year, said she would likely remember the team as much for what it was not.

Even though we werent as strong as a team as other years and we didnt have as many easy wins, I loved it, she said. We had insane chemistry and having to fight for these games was a great challenge.

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