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Tabb's field hockey team will have a golden opportunity to win its sixth state championship in the past eight years after the Tigers rolled past Great Bridge 5-0 during Friday's Group 4A state semifinals.
Playing at the Virginia Beach Sportsplex, Tabb overcame a tenacious Great Bridge defense that gave the Tigers fits over the first 30 minutes of play.
For most of the first half, Great Bridge's defense bent often but refused to break. Tabb's Miya Denison sent a shot sailing just wide of the goal with 22:32 left in the first half, while another Tabb shot clanked off the right post with just over 10 minutes left in the opening half.
While the Tigers retained possession in Great Bridge's defensive third for most of the first 30 minutes, Tabb struggled to break through until late in the half.
With less than 10 seconds remaining in the first half, a Great Bridge turnover in their own half of the field set Tabb up with a breakaway opportunity. After a series of quick passes, Tabb defender Hannah Robinson drove to her left and poked the ball past Great Bridge goalie Lauren Alredge with one second left in the half.
"That was huge," Tabb Coach Wendy Wilson said of the first-half goal. "We had been up there and pushing, but we finally had people on the posts where they should have been and we were able to capitalize on a few more opportunities with that."
At halftime, Wilson preached toughness and resiliency during a game that was still up for grabs. She also reminded the Tigers what they were playing for — a chance to keep Tabb's streak of dominance in the state alive.
The first 20 minutes of the second half resembled much of the first half, with Tabb controlling possession but unable to break through against the Wildcats. Shortly before the 10 minute mark left in the contest, the game blew open in favor of the Tigers.
With 10:09 left in the game, Denison carried the ball up the right side into the Great Bridge circle before firing off a reverse sweep that sent the ball rocketing into the upper-right corner of the goal to put the Tigers up 2-0.
Great Bridge nearly halted Tabb's momentum when Peyton Tollaksen also ripped a shot into the upper-right corner of the net off a penalty corner, beating Tabb goalie Katie Dowling.
After a few minutes of discussion by the officials, the goal was waved off due to the ball being shot above the backboard of the goal, which is not allowed off a penalty corner.
The call reversal seemed to take an emotional toll on Great Bridge, who faltered defensively down the stretch.
With 6:06 left in the game, Izzy Solaroli fired a shot on goal that ended up at the feet of Denison, who hit a low, hard shot into the back of the net to put Tabb up 3-0. The goal was Denison's second of the game.
"I was just trying to get my stick on it somehow and I got it in," Denison said about her second goal. "Without the team, we wouldn't have been able to get it up there or anything. It was all good passing that got us up there."
Less than a minute later, Tabb got on the board again as Lillian Way dribbled through the heart of the Great Bridge defense before having her first shot turned away by Alredge. Never giving up on the play, Way continued to battle and eventually poked the ball into the back of the cage.
Tabb suffered a scare with 4:37 left in the game as Denison collided with a Great Bridge defender and came up holding her wrist. Denison sat out the rest of the game and had an ice pack on her wrist during post-game stretching. Denison told WYDaily after the game she expects to be fine to play in Saturday's championship game.
The final goal came with 3:41 remaining as Solaroli logged her second assist with a cross to Way, who placed her shot on target at a wide open net.
With a 5-0 victory in hand, the Tigers will now turn their attention to Group 4A East champions James Monroe, which defeated Western Albemarle 8-1 in the other Group 4A semifinal match Friday.
Tabb is 3-0 against James Monroe in state tournament games under Wilson, with wins coming in 2008, 2009 and 2010.
Despite Tabb's history against the Yellow Jackets, the Tigers will not be overlooking an undefeated James Monroe squad coming off a blowout victory in the state semis.
"They're a great program," Wilson said of James Monroe. "We just need to go out and play with each other and work for each other."
Tabb (19-1) will play against James Monroe at noon Saturday at the Virginia Beach Sportsplex.
Tabb 5, Great Bridge 0
Goals: Tabb (Hannah Robinson, Miya Denison 2, Lillian Way 2)
Assists: Tabb (Izzy Solaroli 2)