DeMatha forward Arion Assue watched his 25-yard direct kick drill the upper right corner of the net during the first half of Saturday’s WCAC championship against Gonzaga, and after it did, all of his teammates on the field took their spots for an imaginary photo. Some kneeled. Some stood. All smiled as Assue formed an imaginary camera with his hands, clicking away in celebration.
It was an odd showing, but for a team that has long fashioned itself a family, it was a fitting final portrait on the field. Assue’s 20th goal of the year was the difference, and DeMatha capped its remarkable late-season run with an eighth consecutive shutout in a 1-0 win over Gonzaga at the Maryland SoccerPlex in Boyds.
“It’s my favorite celebration as a team,” Assue said. “We all run over to the corner as a team. We’re a close-knit group. Our goal this year was just to stick together and win the championship.”
With Saturday’s win, DeMatha (15-4) also found vindication after a crushing penalty kick loss to the Eagles (9-6-3) in last season’s title match. The Stags rallied after a September slump that saw them lose four consecutive matches — including a 3-2 loss to Gonzaga after blowing a two-goal lead in the second half.
“We wanted revenge,” Assue said. “They’re the only team that’s really given us a hard time.”
But behind the brilliance of Assue and a back line that was among the best in the area during the second half of the season, DeMatha reeled off 13 consecutive wins and outscored its last five opponents 17-0. That dominance continued Saturday night. After lining up for a direct kick above Gonzaga’s box eight minutes into the game, he bent his offering over the wall and cleanly beat Gonzaga’s goalkeeper in the upper right corner.
Gonzaga, which advanced to its 14th consecutive title game after beating Bishop Ireton in penalty kicks and shutting out Paul VI in the WCAC tournament in a three-day span this week, had few clean looks at the net in the first half but stayed in the contest thanks to acrobatic goalkeeping of junior Tyler Olmsted. And the Eagles picked up their offensive urgency in the final 40 minutes. Still, the Stags’ defenders swarmed on a promising corner kick halfway through the second half, and another direct kick five minutes later went whistling past the post to the left.
And then there was Assue, who came away with a steal after a corner kick at the four-minute mark. He had been so instrumental during DeMatha’s run through the tournament this week — scoring five goals in two games. He put his hands over his head after hitting the crossbar with two minutes to play, which would have given him his eighth multi-goal game of the season. But on this night, his resounding kick early in the match was enough.
Gonzaga will continue its season Tuesday in the DCSAA quarterfinals, hosting Maret as the tournament’s third seed.
Pine’s score, which was assisted by Jonah Gigli, gave Wilson (11-5-2) momentum after Bell established itself as the aggressor in the first 10 minutes. The Tigers created another opportunity off a corner kick 10 minutes into the second half, when Duque nailed a 20-yard strike off a Jesse Lauritsen assist.
The Tigers will meet the Griffins for a fifth time this season Tuesday in the DCSAA quarterfinals. Wilson has won three of the four meetings this season by a 2-0 score.
These two teams had met the previous two seasons in the DCIAA title game, with Bell winning in penalty kicks last season and Wilson returning the favor with a penalty kick win last season.
“It means a lot. The boys have really taken on the ideas and philosophy that I have,” Wilson Coach Sal Caccavale said. “We play a fine team game.”