Whitman 4, Churchill 0
Before last night's girls' soccer game against visiting Churchill, first-year Whitman coach Greg Herbert posted signs throughout the Bethesda school that simply stated, "It's all about pride."
It was a trait that Herbert was hoping would reemerge among his players after the defending state champions dropped their last two 4A Central games, getting shut out in both and falling to fourth place in the division.
It didn't take long for Whitman to show Herbert they got the message. From the opening whistle, the Vikings took the game to the Bulldogs. Their up-tempo play paid off in the 20th minute when midfielder Retha Koefoed redirected Katharine Laco's corner kick into the side netting to open the scoring. Whitman midfielder Charlotte Rizzi had a goal in each half and Julie McCabe had a late strike to give the Vikings a 4-0 shutout over Churchill.
"I think the girls had hit a low point," Herbert said about his team's attitude after the recent losses. "We took a step back and we worked extremely hard on a lot of stuff. We're forging through and becoming really strong."
Throughout the evening, the focal point of the Vikings offense was Rizzi, who found plenty of space to distribute the ball out of the midfield to her outside midfielders and forwards, who continuously created opportunities for the Vikings (6-3, 4-2 4A Central). When she wasn't creating opportunities, Rizzi was busy finishing them, curling in a corner kick just before halftime to give Whitman a 2-0 lead and then unleashing a 35-yard blast into the upper netting with 10 minutes to play for a 3-0 lead.
"We finally got in a rhythm and finally got going and it was a really good night," Rizzi said.
The Bulldogs (7-2, 5-2) entered the night with a chance to claim the division title outright, already owning a tiebreaker advantage over Richard Montgomery by virtue of their 2-0 win on Sept. 30, but Churchill failed to match the intensity put forth by Whitman and didn't get a quality attempt on goal until the latter stages of the second half.
The loss gives the Rockets the opportunity to claim the division title if they can win their final division game against Gaithersburg.
"We kept talking about being mentally ready for this game, but we weren't," Churchill Coach Haroot Hakopian said. "They were playing at a different speed than we were."