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Varsity field hockey hits ground running

Briar Woods midfielder/forward Hannah Hooper netted the lone goal in the Falcons’ 1-0 victory versus host Rock Ridge on Aug. 22 in Ashburn.—Times-Mirror/Rick Wasser
On Aug. 22, the sports pantheon of Loudoun County grew by one. For this new sport's players and coaches, the first games of public high school varsity field hockey were a long time coming.

“We’ve fought for this for six years,” said Keil Ritterpusch, field hockey advocate and Briar Woods head coach. “I was actually crying a little at the start.”

Freshly painted boundary lines graced the field of Ashburn's Rock Ridge High School, the site of two Opening Night showdowns. New goalie nets, seven feet tall and 12 feet wide, sat at both ends.

In between, 22 players wielded three-foot wooden sticks with exaggerated hooks, designed to send a baseball-sized plastic-wrapped ball flying. The sticks made a distinctive clang as they whacked the ball and each other.

Whenever that ball trickled close to those nets, the sticks clanged harder and the crowd got louder.

“I’ve been playing for a long time, hoping it gets into the schools,” said Briar Woods midfielder Allyson Lynch, who also plays travel and club field hockey. “It’s so nice to have this for my senior year.”

Lynch had more reason for joy. In addition to her favorite sport being officially sanctioned by her home county's school system, her Falcons won the game. Briar Woods got past Rock Ridge 1-0, owing to Hannah Hooper's goal late in the second 30-minute half.

In the nightcap contest, Potomac Falls downed Dominion 2-1 on captain Serena Farmer's poke-in off a rebound with nine minutes left. Abby Asunción put the Panthers up with a first-half goal before the Titans' Julia Samaha equalized early in the second.

Dominion’s captain and only senior, Lindsey Eller, has played in the club-level Loudoun County League for four years.

“No words to describe how amazing this is,” she said. “The fact we can be out here playing on a real high school field is amazing. We got to play.”

During the action, Potomac Falls head coach Rob Groot found himself instructing on the basics. He doesn't think his orders will be rudimentary for long.

“A lot of stuff is going on on the field, and I can see some things maybe they can’t see,” said Groot, who like Ritterpusch staunchly championed the introduction of field hockey into Loudoun’s public high schools.

Groot echoed Ritterpusch’s assertion that the advent of varsity field hockey is a boon to female athletes aspiring to play in college or beyond.

“Without varsity field hockey, you’re basically cut off from the Olympic trajectory,” Groot explained. “Having it in school, you can now practice four times a week. No club can ever give you four practices a week. These girls could rise to the national level.”

Ritterpusch, whose daughter Kate played at the club level before graduating last June, said he created the Falcons’ uniforms six years before they were worn in varsity competition.

“We were going to look official,” Ritterpusch said. “We were going to show this was viable.”

He said the sheer number of athletes interested in field hockey helped make the sanctioning possible. Three of his former players came back to witness the sport’s varsity inauguration, he said.

“We’re building something from the grassroots, and you can see the smiles on the girls’ faces,” Ritterpusch said. “It’s like a dream realized.”

Lynch was among those smiling girls.

“This gives us the opportunity to win championships for our school and things like that,” she said.

Aug. 22 scores
Briar Woods 1, Rock Ridge 0
Potomac Falls 2, Dominion 1
Stone Bridge 4, Broad Run 0
Freedom 3, John Champe 1

Photos of BWHS/RRHS and PFHS/DHS games played at Rock Ridge by Rick Wasser

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