Wootton Patriots maintain undefeated season for trip to state semis

October 30, 2013

The Wootton field hockey team was in an identical situation a year ago. An undefeated record, a game against a team it had beaten in the regular season and a region title on the line. Even the location was the same. The only difference was the competitor — a speedy Bethesda-Chevy Chase squad — and the eventual outcome.

Hannah King skirted past B-CC’s aggressive defense with 5 minutes 23 seconds left in the first overtime period to send Wootton (15-0) to the state semifinals with a 1-0 win in the 4A South final at Walter Johnson in Bethesda on Wednesday night.

Earlier, Sherwood (16-1) was crowned 4A West champion. By Sherwood’s third corner of the game, even the Quince Orchard fans knew who needed to be marked. It took just one straight shot from the top of the circle for the Cougars fans to start yelling at the defense to watch number 11, and another shot for Emily Kenul to put the Warriors ahead by a goal.

Kenul drilled the ball to the boards with 8:45 left in the first half for the first score of the game. She made the same shot nearly six minutes and two corners later to leave the ball idling in the center for a rebound from midfielder Gabrielle Yore, whose goal was the difference in a 2-1 win.

In the second game, King’s first reaction upon hearing the ball hit the boards was to cry. Her team engulfed her at the cage. Many Wootton players were similarly emotional. Senior sweeper captain Dani Averill said she “instantly cried”—as they had been at last year’s region title game, King recalled.

But that time it was after a loss to Walter Johnson, and the tears came from the disappointment of letting a perfect season end before reaching state semifinals.

“We came out here and knew this isn’t happening again,” said senior captain forward Allie Band, who leads the Patriots with 23 goals. “We’re not dealing with losing a region final on this field again.”

If the memory of last year’s playoff exit wasn’t enough, then the reminder of “Mr. Williamson” might have been.

The Patriots’ biggest fan up until this season was Jim Williamson, an 83-year-old neighbor of the Rockville school who came to practices and games to cheer on the team. He gave the captains and MVPs handwritten notes at the end of the season and would send Coach Kearney Blandamer e-mails after games.

His family spoke of the importance of Wootton field hockey in his life at his funeral last winter and the Patriots dedicated their season to him at the beginning of the year.

His favorite thing to tell the girls was “seso”— score early, score often, Blandamer recalls. That was the phrase repeated in the pre-overtime huddle before Wootton returned to the field.

His memory gets the girls to smile, Blandamer says, and any type of levity at that point of the high-stress game was appreciated.

The Patriots dominated for much of the first half, then struggled later in the game to control a Barons midfield that was closing up the gaps. B-CC (9-7) senior goalie Kiley Goodwin made several monumental stops in one-on-one challenges against Wootton forwards, and forwards Liz Orr and Lexi Hopkins posed a threat to a Wootton defense that has allowed just four goals in 2013.

The Patriots’ win came at a doubleheader that showcased all of Montgomery County’s remaining playoff teams except for Poolesville (2A West) and Watkins Mill (3A West), which lost at Century and Urbana.

In Sherwood’s win, the second half opened with a Quince Orchard (11-5) goal from Brooke Saffer 10 minutes in and near-constant pressure from the Cougars. Quince Orchard forced six corners in the second half and kept sweeper Mollie Russell and the Warriors’ defense scrambling to hold off the equalizer.

“We had to play with more urgency and when you’re a little tired that’s hard to do,” Coach Amy Morse said. “The next part is playing with a lot of heart, and you can’t coach that.”

Sherwood will travel to Broadneck on Monday to face Severna Park (12-3-1), the winner of the 4A East region final, 1-0, against Broadneck (12-5) in overtime. Jessica Valvano scored the winning goal. Dulaney will meet Wootton after beating Old Mill 1-0 in overtime for the 4A North title.

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