Moments before sudden-death overtime began in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference boys' soccer final last night, DeMatha Coach Dafydd Evans challenged his midfielders to push forward and support forwards Drew Yates and Jonathan Werth.
Junior Nick Sylvester heeded Evans's call.
Sylvester's goal in the second minute of overtime thwarted a valiant effort by Gonzaga and gave the Stags a 2-1 win at the Maryland SoccerPlex in Germantown. DeMatha captured its third straight WCAC championship and became the first boys' soccer team in school history to go undefeated and untied.
"This whole season, we played so well," Sylvester said. "It has been a tremendous year, and we were not going to let this game ruin it."
Top-ranked DeMatha took a 1-0 lead in the eighth minute after Yates, a senior, trapped a restart inside the six-yard box and buried it in the lower right corner. It seemed like the Stags, who beat Gonzaga twice during the regular season, were on their way to another convincing victory.
Gonzaga (15-8-2) clamped down in the back, however, and kept the deficit at one well into the second half. In the 66th minute, a throw-in by Eagles defender Grant Furnary skipped in front of DeMatha's goal. Jose Kassar sprinted in, slid and fired a shot into the goal, tying the game and sending the raucous Gonzaga student section into a frenzy.
The Eagles seemed to have DeMatha on its heels entering overtime, but Sylvester changed that. Werth made a run down the right sideline and played a low cross into the penalty area. Sylvester raced forward, beat a Gonzaga defender to the ball and finished high into the goal.
"Gonzaga deserved it tonight," Evans said, "but in this fair championship scheme, we were the ones who definitely deserved it this year. I'm glad we netted it in the end."
In the girls' final, sophomore Tiffany McCarthy demonstrated why she is considered St. John's most dangerous scoring threat. Her hat trick helped the third-seeded Cadets cruise to a 5-1 victory over fourth-seeded Bishop Ireton.
"I had confidence in our whole team," McCarthy said. "I knew that we were not going to lose. I was really proud of our team for pulling through."
Riding the momentum of Thursday's 2-0 semifinal win over No. 1 Good Counsel, St. John's (21-5) jumped to a 3-0 halftime lead en route to the first WCAC girls' soccer championship in school history.
"The girls started clicking at the right time," St. John's Coach Errol Brathwaite said. "These girls worked really hard. There was no doubt that we can win this championship."
The Cadets finished on offense with impressive ease, and goalkeeper Jessica Stone -- one of only four seniors on St. John's roster -- secured the lead with five saves. The only goal against her came on a penalty kick.
Bishop Ireton (16-4-2) had trimmed St. John's lead to 3-1 when Stone made a pivotal, sliding save in a one-on-one situation in the 60th minute, then sent the Cadets immediately back on the counterattack.
On the opposite end, McCarthy settled a bouncing ball behind the defense and put the game away with her second goal of the game.
"Coming up big, saving that one-on-one, and then being able to go into the attacking [third] was huge," Stone said. "That was just what we needed to clinch the victory."