Ashburn, Va. — With rain in the forecast and a district championship on the line, the Independence and Riverside High School field hockey teams got an early start to their third meeting of the season on October 25 in Ashburn.
However, any coach will tell you beating a team twice in a season is challenging enough and beating a team like Riverside three times in one season is an obstacle not many teams have the willpower to accomplish.
After a pair of lightning delays and more than 90 minutes waiting in the locker room, the Tigers—who scored late in the first half and again midway through the third quarter—were declared the Potomac District champions in a weather-shortened game, defeating Riverside for the third time this season, 2-0.
“It’s super exciting. This is our first ever district tournament, because in 3A, we didn’t have a district tournament,” Independence head coach Jennifer Darrow said. “It’s been fun to go through this ride versus going through a full week and a half of just practicing. It’s brought a new level of excitement at this point in the season.”
Following a 30-minute lightning delay early in the second quarter, the Rams earned a penalty corner less than 15 seconds after resuming play. Unfortunately for Riverside, Independence was able to defend the corner and eventually turn the table.
“Rain sucks,” Darrow said. “We just tried to keep the team amped and excited in the locker room, doing what we could to have them ready to play.”
In the final four minutes of the first half, the Tigers had plenty of opportunities, earning four penalty corners. The Rams successfully defended and cleared the first three, but with the clock waning down, Independence senior defender Grace Gorham collected a rebound in front of an open net and connected to put the Tigers up, 1-0, heading into halftime.
“They came out really strong and made it a really challenging game,” Gorham said. “We just happened to score first and get the momentum, but they never let up which made the game even more competitive.”
With a 1-0 lead and the momentum, the Tigers extended their lead midway through the third quarter when freshman midfielder Sammie Goin found Gorham open in front of the net and Gorham once again connected to put the Tigers up, 2-0.
“In general, a 1-0 lead is never really reassuring, because just one goal, and you’re tied again,” Gorham said. “Adding that second goal was a big confidence boost for everyone. “
With 1:15 left in the third quarter lightning struck again as both teams exited the field to endure their second lightning delay of the night.
After about an hour of sitting in their respective locker rooms, the teams were informed that the game would be called due to weather, and because a full half had been played, the game would be considered final with Independence defeating Riverside, 2-0.
“It’s tough to beat a team three times, and they definitely made some adjustments that were more difficult for us to overcome,” Darrow said. “We made our own adjustments towards the end of the second quarter which allowed us to take the advantage.”
After winning the Potomac District championship, the Tigers have already set their sights on the VHSL Region 5D tournament, where they hope to earn their first Class 5 Region title after reclassifying from 3A prior to the start of the season.
“At this point, we just need to get as many touches on the ball as we can and fine tune some things,” Darrow said. “We’ll just hope it works out for the best.”