With a combination of scads of talent and ability in addition to plenty of energy and passion, the McLean Highlanders were unbeatable in winning two postseason girls high-school soccer tournaments, amassing a 5-0 record in those competitions.
McLean’s most recent championship came in the 6D North Region Tournament, winning the crown with a 3-0 record, defeating the Oakton Cougars, 2-1, in the title match at McLean, rallying from a 1-0 deficit. The region crown was McLean’s first in program history. The Highlanders did win a state title in 2011, the season they finished second in the region.
Prior to the 2021 region event, McLean won this spring’s Liberty District tourney with a 2-0 mark. The team has a 13-2 overall record and nine-game winning streak entering the Class 6 state tournament.
The Highlanders’ two losses were to the 2019 state champion Yorktown Patriots (the season opener in overtime), the team they defeated in the district tourney final. Other than Yorktown, no opponent has scored more than one goal against McLean, which has seven shutouts.
“We have a talented, senior-laden team. They are all competitors and they really wanted this [region title],” said McLean coach Rob Bouchard, who has been the head coach since that 2011 campaign. “Once the playoff started, the seniors have taken this over and have taken it through.”
McLean lost to Oakton in the 2019-region tournament, which helped motivate the Highlanders for the 2021 region final match.
“Our seniors told me, ‘Coach, don’t worry. We remember that loss,’” Bouchard said.
Scoring Oakton’s goals in the region final were seniors Kyra Bolden and Kaitlyn Helfrich, two of McLean’s leading scorers. Senior Kylie Keysor assisted on Bolden’s goal.
“We really wanted to win the region super-bad,” said Bolden, who will play college soccer at Howard University. “This is super exciting. The reason we have won in the playoffs is 100 percent because of passion and energy. We have such a strong willingness to win, and that has definitely made us stronger.”
Keysor said McLean made a halftime adjustment and controlled the midfield in the second half against Oakton.
“We regrouped at halftime,” Keysor said. “Being one goal down got us going.”
In McLean’s other region-tournament games, it nipped Madison, 2-1, in the first round, then Herndon, 3-1, in the semifinals.
Against Madison, Bolden scored each goal, netting the game-winner in the final 2 minutes. Keysor scored two goals against Herndon and junior Maggie Olifer had the other.
Senior Malak El Haddad was the starter in goal in the region, replacing injured Eliza Hager, who played most of the season and into the district tournament.
Other key players for McLean were seniors Camille Baron, Nicole Jauregui, Katie Romhilt and Ellen Shine, who was a ball girl on McLean’s 2011 team; juniors Gianna Russso and Isabel Butler; sophomores Faith Whare, Isabella Andreoli and Malia Bullen; and freshmen Malina Rubin, Joelle Hamel, Talia Bolden and Kayla Fraser.
“Our players all knew their roles, and they were good about playing those roles,” Bouchard said.
The McLean players credited their friends and fellow classmates for showing up to the Highlanders’ games and giving a lot of support and providing energy.
“I think that was really special to have such a big fan base, and it definitely fueled our energy and passion,” Bolden said.