Sidwell Friends sophomore midfielder Ryan Yang did his bit to help pack up the sideline after Sunday’s Mid-Atlantic Conference championship game against Flint Hill, falling behind the bench to round up some soccer balls into a netted rucksack while his teammates continued to celebrate their 3-1 victory.
In the two previous hours, the soft-spoken midfielder played a similar role — a manager who kept his team ahead on points, a player who held everything together in the season’s most important game.
Yang was fearless all afternoon, charging constantly to win the ball and chasing down Flint Hill’s speedy forwards on defense. The only moment he was frightened? That came with less than one minute to go, when a loose ball came his way, his team leading 2-1, and Flint Hill’s net wide open after its keeper was caught out of the box.
But he calmed himself and delivered a clean strike to the net for his second goal of the afternoon, providing the insurance the Quakers needed in Northwest.
Although Sidwell Friends (15-3-2) was crowned the MAC regular season champions, there was still work to do Sunday in order to not only claim the tournament prize, but to also cleanse the foul taste of losing 2-0 to Flint Hill (12-5-1) in mid-October. The sense of urgency from both sides was present from the onset, as the two teams traded three goals in a three-minute span before the match was even halfway through the first half.
Yang, who hadn’t recorded a multi-goal performance all year, provided the first goal eight minutes in after a deflection in the Flint Hill box, and fellow sophomore forward Max Graham (12 goals in 2013) pushed the lead to 2-1 three minutes later on a turnaround dart from 20 yards out.
“We knew we needed to come out and fight early,” said Sidwell Friends captain Nick Jackson, who moved from forward to center back for the first time all season. “We thought it was going to be really tight. . . . The guys really came out to fight and play.”
Sidwell adopted a brutal preseason regimen this season, and one day sprinted around its home field about 30 times, according to Jackson. The team would sprint for two minutes, then jog for two minutes, then repeat, with Sidwell Coach Jorgen Kjaer telling the group that it would pay off on a cold day in the MAC championship.
Simple coach-speak, maybe. But it also proved to be prophetic: The Quakers had the look of a well-conditioned team Sunday, and they had to be. Flint Hill had chances to tie late, including with a flurry of set pieces in the final 10 minutes. A corner kick dangerously danced across the Sidwell box at the six-minute mark. Sidwell keeper Tyler Bolog had to punch out a cross a minute later. One minute after that, Flint Hill’s Narayan Taterway wound up from 40 yards and watched his drive hiss inches above the crossbar. Yang saw his opening moments later, giving the Quakers their final margin.
“I’ve never been happier in my life,” Yang said. “This is sick.”
Sidwell Friends will continue its season on Tuesday in the D.C. State Athletic Association quarterfinals, when it hosts Washington International.