Leesburg, Va. — The Loudoun County High School field hockey team entered the 2019 season with two new coaches and without the 2018 Dulles District Player of the Year Abigail Stevens, who graduated in the spring. The Lady Raiders also opened their 2019 schedule against two 2018 VHSL 5A state tournament teams: the Stone Bridge Bulldogs and the Potomac Falls Panthers.
When Potomac Falls travelled to Loudoun County on August 28, though, the Lady Raiders were already 1-0 – having dispatched the 2018 VHSL Region 5C runner up Stone Bridge Bulldogs, 4-2, on August 26 – and the Panthers were 0-1 after falling to Loudoun Valley on August 27.
From the first whistle, the Lady Raiders dominated possession and continued to attack the Panthers’ defense, before Loudoun County junior forward Emily Tyler found the back of the net. Tyler’s goal would prove decisive as the Lady Raiders held on to defeat the Panthers, 1-0.
“Getting that goal gave us a big confidence boost and gave us the advantage early on,” Loudoun County head coach Maggie Darby said. “We got to play from ahead instead of playing from behind.”
Tyler – who picked up first team all-district honors last fall – headlines a core group of Loudoun County returners, including sophomore Alyssa Markell and senior Caili Shanahan, who were both named second-team all-district.
The Lady Raiders – who finished fifth in the Dulles District in 2018 – will continue to lean on that group to lead them this fall.
“We have some really great leaders,” Loudoun County assistant coach Kelly Petrella said. “Sometimes communication is one of the hardest things to teach, but it comes very naturally to our girls.”
That communication helped Tyler and the Lady Raiders get on the board against Potomac Falls, who won both the Potomac District and VHSL Region 5C tournaments in 2018. With about eight minutes to go in the first frame, Tyler moved across the front of the Potomac Falls goal and knocked the ball past the Panthers’ keeper to take the 1-0 lead.
Despite a late surge by Potomac Falls, Loudoun County held on and improved to 2-0 on the season.
“I don’t think these girls were sure what to expect this year with two new coaches,” Petrella said. “Winning these first two games definitely gives them a confidence boost to move through the season.”
Having defeated two of the top perennial contenders in the area to start their season, the Lady Raiders still have a long road ahead if they want to contend for a Dulles District title.
“We just have to play our game,” Darby said. “When we play our game, and we’re focused, we’re on.”
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