On a few occasions Tuesday afternoon against Churchill, Bethesda-Chevy Chase’s girls’ soccer Coach Rob Kurtz would have to tame the thunderous right foot of sophomore defender Denali Minnick. When she had possession of the ball on the back line, he would scream “easy” to soften her approach, and at other times, he would simply yell “big ball” to give Minnick the green light to boot the ball downfield. Kurtz later likened it to “caging a lion.”
But he didn’t have to say anything during the 34th minute in the second half. That’s when Minnick snuck up behind Churchill’s defense on a corner kick, and after receiving a dump-off pass from Eliza Doll, she proceeded to rocket a 35-yard goal to the top right corner of the net to lift the visiting Barons to a 1-0 win over the Bulldogs.
“I just wanted to get it over the goalie,” said Minnick, whose team improved to 7-1. “I was just thinking, Eliza is giving me this awesome ball, so why not just take a shot?”
It was the first career goal for Minnick, who moved to the area from Boise, Idaho, as a freshman and has been one of Kurtz’s most prized defenders since. She anchored a back line that was bruised against the brawnier Churchill (5-2-1), in what Kurz called the most physical game of the season for his club. The Barons didn’t back down, however, limiting the Bulldogs to just a handful of clean looks at the net in the second half and disrupted Churchill’s flow with a constant assault at the net.
“It’s a typical Churchill and B-CC game, that’s what it gets down to,” Kurtz said. “It’s going to be a goal, it’s going to be a corner. It’s strategy.”
Churchill’s senior goalkeeper Becca Ewel made a number of crafty saves in the second half to keep her team in it, but simply couldn’t reach Minnick’s ball. It was an odd exchange between two of the best defensive players on the field, and one Minnick will never forget. She doesn’t get many looks at the net.
“I’ve been able to make assists, which sometimes, is actually way cooler than scoring,” Minnick said. “It’s like, the greatest feeling in the world.”
Muessle’s speed in the midfield set the tone for Churchill (4-4-1), which struck first in the 34th minute on a goal from Noel Purnell, who beat goalkeeper Phillip Gunn from 10 yards out on a breakaway. Muessle took over moments later, collecting a rebound off a deflected corner kick to beat Gunn inside the box and make it 2-0. Muessle got on a run-out on the right side of the field about 90 seconds after that, spinning a pass to the top of the box for a Chris Rahimi goal.
Bethesda-Chevy Chase (2-4-3) cut it to 3-1 with about 18 minutes remaining on a Freddy Nzekele rebound goal, after goalkeeper Eli Tobias bobbled a save, and made it 3-2 on a Cwa Rugumayo strike with 3 minutes 45 seconds left. The Barons had several opportunities to tie the score on deep balls on ensuing possessions, but on a chilly, thin-aired night in Potomac, when most of the shots by Guillermo Melendez’s team sailed above the net, the rally was too late.
“Offensively, we’re killing it,” Meussle said. “We kind of let the game get away from us. I think a couple players on the team thought, ‘Oh, games over, there’s no chance they can come back.’ . . . We realized we still have to work for it.”