T.C. Williams field hockey lives up to their top billing with dream postseason run

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T.C. Williams field hockey lives up to their top billing with dream postseason run
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By Chris Teale (Photo/Chris Teale)

The dream run through the postseason continued Tuesday night for the No. 1 seeded T.C. Williams field hockey team, which beat Fairfax 1-0 at Minnie Howard in the 6A North regional semifinals and extended its winning streak to 15 games across the regular season and playoffs.

The winning goal came with 20:21 left in the second half as Philomena Fitzgerald finished from close range after a corner. The Titans will face Westfield away from home in the 6A North final. Their arrival in the semifinals of the regional tournament also guarantees T.C. a place in the 6A state championship’s final four, slated for November 13 and 14 in Virginia Beach.

The win against Fairfax came on the back of an impressive run through the 6A North regional tournament, which began with a 3-0 victory over No. 4 seed McLean and continued October 29 with a tense 2-1 win against No. 3 seed Robinson.

In the tough encounter at Minnie Howard against Robinson, the hosts went ahead with less than three minutes gone with a Sophie Johnson goal, assisted by Alex Milliken. Then, with 6:54 remaining before the halftime interval, Mimi Hyre found the cage after Josie Brocato chipped a pass over the onrushing Robinson goalkeeper Hannah Choi.

Those goals before the break provided momentum for the home side, which was able to go into halftime well ahead on the scoreboard and brimming with confidence.

“[Early goals] set the tone,” said Titans head coach William Heresniak after the Robinson game. “If you look at our games throughout the season, we’ve been able to do that consistently, to come out of the gate fast and intense and it sets the tone of the ballgame. Same thing in soccer, anything like that. You put the first one in, and you’re running the game.”

“We always say before the game that we want to score first … because the games are always really close,” said Johnson. “As long as you score, for us, once we score one there’s another one, and we just want to keep putting them in and it starts flowing.”

Not everything went the Titans’ way in the second half, as the Rams came roaring back to cut the deficit to 2-1 with 17:33 remaining before the final buzzer. Forward Charlotte Clark latched onto a long through ball and buried it, leaving the hosts with the difficult task of defending a one-goal lead for more than 15 minutes.

But with a stout defense, the Titans were able to hold on for the win, something T.C. always
felt confident of, even as Robinson increased the pressure in search of an equalizer.

“It shows that we’re really strong, we’re strong-willed,” said Hyre. “It shows that we don’t give up on each other, I think that’s the most important thing. We’re not trying to play for ourselves, we’re trying to play for each other. We really are trying our best to stay together and stay positive, that’s one of our biggest things and we’re not going to lose, ever.”

“We’ve had games like this,” said Heresniak. “They haven’t been conference championship games or anything like that, but we’ve seen pressure like that, we’ve been in situations like that. We’ve come back before if we need to and we’re a tight bunch. We play as a team; we’re cohesive. We depend on each other and we know what our jobs are. Across the board, we can handle situations like that.”

The confidence is flowing through the Titans, especially after the team picked up its first Patriot Conference title since 1995 late last month with a victory over W.T. Woodson. The significance of the conference championship win is not lost on the players, none of whom had been born the last time the Titans took home the prize.

“It’s so important to us and to our school, because it brings so much pride to us,” said Hyre. “We have the title, and it helps us show that our hard work is really paying off. Even if we don’t win states or win regionals, we won the Patriot Conference title, which is still a good thing to win.”

As for their next opponents, the Titans face a Westfield team that won the Concorde Conference championship and comes in with a No. 1 seed and an 18-game winning streak. In those 18 games, the Bulldogs have conceded just three goals, but the Titans are up for any challenge that comes their way and know what is required.

“We definitely need to keep the intensity up and keep focusing,” Hyre said. “Focus is probably the most important thing.”

“Keep doing the same things we’ve been doing,” Heresniak said. “Keep playing hockey, that’s what I told them before the game. It’s like they’re a thoroughbred horse in the gate. You don’t have to train them — we train, obviously — but you just start the game and let them go.”

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