Walter Johnson field hockey readies for postseason run

October 17, 2012

Three games into this season, Walter Johnson field hockey Coach Erika Murray was unhappy with the direction of her team.

The Wildcats were 2-1 after a close win in their third game, but Murray didn’t think her players were playing cohesively, and they were getting by on their individual talent rather than sound play.

“I could tell it was 10 individuals out there and we knew we couldn’t keep playing like that,” Murray said. “We’ve really had most of our focus now on the team element, and realizing you can’t win a game without everyone on the field.”

Heading into their regular season finale at Springbrook on Wednesday, Walter Johnson is 9-1 and has won eight consecutive games by a combined score of 29-7.

A fifth straight season of 10 or more wins appears likely, but after years of disappointing losses in their region tournament, Murray thinks the Wildcats are also better equipped this year to make a run at their first state semifinal appearance since 2001.

Junior midfielder Anna Rowthorn-Apel – a two-time Junior Olympian – is the team’s leading scorer for the second straight year, senior Mackenzie Early has been a dynamic two-way player and senior goalkeeper Daniela Matos has been stellar in net.

“This would be the year to do it,” Murray said. “We have the team to get there.”

The past two weeks have been especially encouraging, when Walter Johnson earned impressive wins over Churchill, Bethesda-Chevy Chase and Poolesville in consecutive games.

The win against B-CC was the Wildcats’ first over the Montgomery County power since 1995, and served as a major psychological boost after the Barons had eliminated them from each of the last three postseasons.

“It was about getting over that mental block of knowing it’s just the name of a school,” Murray said. “It was like ‘OK, we can do this.”

Seniors lead Mount Vernon

Mount Vernon (13-3-1) is unbeaten in the Virginia AAA National District and has not given up a goal in any of its victories. The Majors, scheduled to face Edison in a National semifinal Wednesday, are aiming for their third district title in five years.

Five seniors have been on the team since they were freshmen, including district player of the year Jane Heller, a midfielder, and fellow middie Serenna Schantz.

Heller, more of a defensive player, has been a captain since her sophomore year but missed most of last season with a torn ACL.

“Her field awareness is excellent,” Mount Vernon Coach Jessica Hebel said. “She can just really see a lot of pass options. A lot of the girls will see what’s in front of them and beside them and not see how advantageous a back pass or diagonal back pass can be. She’s very easy to play with.”

The Majors have secured at least the No. 2 seed out of the district for the 16-team Northern Region tournament. The district tournament champion will be in the same half of the bracket as No. 3 Westfield, the heavy favorite to win the Concorde District and region titles.

Edwards is a rare combination: High school coach and kindergarten teacher, at Washington Mill Elementary School in Fairfax County.

“I like the dynamic of going from being with little kids to being with people who know I’m joking when I say, ‘No, you can’t go to the bathroom,’” she said with a laugh. “The change is very different. It’s a good difference for me.”

The Post Top 10

Westfield and Fairfax were both scheduled to open postseason play Wednesday after each received first-round byes as the top seeds in their respective district tournaments...South River clinched the Anne Arundel County championship even before its scheduled game Wednesday against Severna Park, and will face Howard County champion Glenelg for the second year in a row in the District V Championship Game... Heading into Wednesday’s regular-season finale, Sherwood had shut out six of its last seven opponents.

(Records through Tuesday)

1. South River (11-1-1) Last week: 1

2. Glenelg (12-1) LW: 2

3. Westfield (14-2) LW: 3

4. Severna Park (10-2) LW: 4

5. Broadneck (10-3) LW: 5

6. Bullis (11-0) LW: 8

7. Wootton (10-0-1) LW: 7

8. Sherwood (13-0) LW: 9

9. Fairfax (15-1) LW: 10

10. St. Stephen’s/St. Agnes (10-4-1) LW: 6

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