Bull­dogs’ strong fin­ish leads to ti­tle

STONE BRIDGE 15, PO­TOMAC FALLS 12

The Washington Post Sunday - - SPORTS - BY JOEY LOMONACO joey.lomonaco@wash­post.com

Laugh­ter was the only re­ac­tion to the ques­tion sur­round­ing the first girls’ lacrosse state ti­tle in Stone Bridge his­tory: “Did you think this was even pos­si­ble?”

At the sea­son’s on­set, all signs pointed to a re­build­ing move­ment in Ash­burn, a pe­riod of “grow­ing pains” fol­low­ing the grad­u­a­tion of 13 se­niors in 2014. And early on, as the Bull­dogs stum­bled to a 2-6 start to the sea­son, those ex­pec­ta­tions seemed to align with re­al­ity.

Even af­ter Satur­day’s 15-12 win over Loudoun ri­val Po­tomac Falls in the 5A state fi­nal at Lake Brad­dock, the Bull­dogs’ im­prob­a­ble run to a ti­tle re­ver­ber­ated through­out the ros­ter.

“We barely thought we’d make it to con­fer­ences, so it was kind of a shock to come out here,” sopho­more Maria Keener said.

But rein­vig­o­rated by an up­set victory over Mar­shall on April 20 — a win that came with­out Ken­dall Fitzger­ald, the team’s lead­ing scorer — Stone Bridge up­set Tus­carora in the Con­fer­ence 14 semi­fi­nals and ad­vanced to last week’s 5A North re­gion fi­nal, which it dropped, 14-12, to the Pan­thers.

Fitzger­ald net­ted a teamhigh five goals for Stone Bridge (12-7), while Keener and Hadley Killen tal­lied four times. Tori Birks led Po­tomac Falls (14-5) with four goals, and Molly DeCarli had a hat trick.

Po­tomac Falls had won two of the teams’ three pre­vi­ous matchups this sea­son, but the Pan­thers’ high-tempo of­fense was thrown off-kil­ter by an early deficit. Buoyed by two Fitzger­ald goals, the Bull­dogs jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first four min­utes and led, 7-4, at half­time.

“We just got off to a slow start, we missed some shots that we should’ve made, and that would’ve made a world of dif­fer­ence,” Po­tomac Falls Coach Jim Birks said. “You just need to be ahead, it’s fun to be ahead and that didn’t hap­pen.”

Af­ter the fi­nal whis­tle, Stone Bridge Coach Monika Guer­rero locked Keener in a tight hug, and said: “Way to dom­i­nate that game, you did such a good job, and I’m so proud of you.”

The smiles only widened as the state ti­tle ban­ner was pre­sented, and that was only nat­u­ral — Stone Bridge was still get­ting ac­cus­tomed to the con­cept.

“This wasn’t even on the ta­ble for us,” Guer­rero said.

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