Leesburg, Va. — It isn’t common that teams rely on young players to have big contributions on the biggest stages. Most teams would focus solely on upperclassmen, who have the requisite experience needed. Freshmen and sophomores would be an afterthought.
That is not the case for the Dominion High School girls lacrosse team, which relied on its underclassmen in a VHSL 4A State semifinal win over Riverside on June 4 and were rewarded for its decision to play young with the Titans’ first berth to a state championship game, where they’ll meet Western Albemarle on June 8 in Salem.
The Titans earned that berth after a 10-8 win over Riverside, a team they had been unable to beat throughout the year, most recently falling to the Rams in the VHSL Region 4C championship game, but Dominion exacted revenge when it mattered most.
The Titans got five goals from freshmen and three more from sophomores, a fact that was not lost upon head coach Diane Traynor.
“We are so blessed to get girls from right from our community who are rising up and are instant impact players on our program,” Traynor said. “We’ve got so many threats out on the field.”
The Dominion contributions came from up and down the lineup, including from the leading scorer, freshman attacker Molly Battaglia, who tallied three goals. Her first and third goals both came on free shots as she beat Riverside senior goalie Mia Paschuck low and to the left side both times.
“As a freshman, I was really scared honestly, because I’ve never had this big of a game before having a lot of pressure, but I just decided to let it go, have fun, and play,” Battaglia said. “I knew [Paschuck] was better high than low, and I used fakes. I knew I had to be fast to beat her.”
Dominion extended its lead to 7-3 with 23 minutes left in the second half after a goal by another young player, sophomore attacker Tierney Schaible.
“It feels amazing. I’m so happy,” Schlaibe said.“We have got to keep playing like we did tonight.”
Not all the contributions came from young players, however, as Dominion senior goalie Katie Petersen was exceptional, stopping 16 of 24 shots. Multiple times Riverside players eluded the defense and came in on Petersen’s doorstep before shooting.
“I’m very happy for me and my teammates right now,” Peterson said, choked up with emotion. “I’m very happy that I get one more time [to play]with my teammates.”
The importance of Petersen’s contributions was not lost on Traynor.
“I am so amazingly happy for Katie. She is an awesome kid who deserved to have the most awesome game of her life tonight,” Traynor said. “She came up huge, and she was our anchor back there.”
Shortly after the Titans went up 7-3, the Rams responded, scoring three goals in two-and-a-half minutes to cut the lead to just one. Traynor called a timeout at the 14:04 mark, trying to stabilize her team, and it worked. For the next four minutes, both teams were held scoreless, and no solid chances occurred for either team other than a shot off the post for Riverside.
Then, at the 9:56 mark, yet another Dominion freshman, Ashlyn Hickey, was able to put a shot past Paschuck, and Dominion would match goals with Riverside the rest of the way en route to the win, eliminating the Rams.
On the opposing sideline, the Riverside Rams were understandably devastated, as Riverside head coach Kristan Ash was seen consoling numerous members of her team.
“I’m really proud of those girls. They gave us everything they got on the field,” Ash said. “They wanted to come out on top tonight. It didn’t go our way, but win, lose, or draw, we love our team.”
For the Titans, the road continues, as they will travel to Salem on June 8 with the VHSL 4A State championship on the line.
“I could not be more proud of my team,” Traynor said. “We felt it was our time this game, and our girls pulled through.”