At the midpoint of the season, the Whitman girls' soccer team had lost three of seven games, and at the midpoint of last night's game, the Vikings were tied with Chesapeake.
Whitman apparently is a second-half team.
In last night's Maryland 4A semifinals at Churchill, Whitman scored three second-half goals to claim a 4-1 win over the Cougars. The victory extended Whitman's winning streak to eight and earned the Vikings a shot at a second straight state title. Whitman (12-3) will face C.M. Wright -- a 3-2 penalty-kick winner over Eleanor Roosevelt after a scoreless game -- in Thursday's state final at UMBC.
Despite having the majority of its team back from last year's state champion, Whitman struggled in adjusting to a new coach and dealing with injuries early in the year. An Oct. 5 loss to Richard Montgomery dropped Whitman to 4-3.
"I think a lot of teams go through a midseason slump," said Whitman midfielder Charlotte Rizzi, who assisted on the Vikings' first two goals. "We were trying to figure out what our rhythm was and see where everyone fits on the field, and we have a pretty good team now."
Forward Leslie Morrison and midfielders Julie McCabe and Liz Gibson scored the second-half goals for Whitman. Midfielder Becky Stevens had given the Vikings a 1-0 lead in the 15th minute when she tapped in the rebound off a long shot by Rizzi.
Chesapeake (14-4-1) evened the score just before halftime on forward Carrie Parsell's glancing header.
In the second semifinal, the action was dominated by the defenses, especially the goalkeeping of Wendy Balogun for Roosevelt (16-1-1) and Katie Kolb for C.M. Wright (16-2).
After a slow-developing first half that produced few quality chances, both teams came out with more energy in the second half, but both Balogun and Kolb came up with diving saves in the opening five minutes of the game to keep the game scoreless.
In penalty kicks, the teams mirrored each other through their first four attempts, with both teams scoring twice. But after Mustangs midfielder Erin Rawlick tucked a low shot inside the left post, Kolb punched away a shot, sending C.M. Wright to the final.
"Any time you're in these things, you feel pressure," said Eleanor Roosevelt first-year coach Bill Heiser. "We were hoping to get a few more breaks and [to] have a couple of opportunities to put one in."