Late in the second half of the ISL AA tournament championship, No. 1 St. Stephen’s/St. Agnes led by one on the scoreboard but was trailing perilously in momentum. A Saints’ player’s mother, hands clasped, watched goalie Gussie Johns turn away another point-blank Georgetown Visitation shot and then lifted her arms skyward:
“Thank God for Gussie!” she said, and the story of the Saints’ 19th straight ISL AA championship win was told.
In the training room before the Saints’ 12-6 win at Holy Child in Potomac on Wednesday, Johns had a fever. At halftime of the game, Coach Kathy Jenkins worried her goalie might not be able to play. A few times throughout, Johns grew dizzy. But sickness couldn’t prevent her from stopping No. 4 Visitation again and again.
“Gussie played the game of her life,” Jenkins said. “She did not feel well, but she just played her little heart out.”
After a typically powerful St. Stephen’s/St. Agnes display early in the first half, the Cubs stormed back to cut what was a 7-1 Saints’ lead to 7-6, maintaining possession for nearly 10 straight minutes, chipping away with shot after shot.
Hagerup lined up a shot feet away from Johns with 13 minutes to play, but the Southern California-bound goalie’s stick sent the would-be game-tying goal back. Seconds later, the Saints (29-1) had their first goal since the first half, and they were confident the Cubs (17-8) wouldn’t get two past Johns.
“Gussie really fired us up,” said Saints midfielder Darby Philbrick, who Jenkins said “did all the little things” as she dropped back on defense to help match up with the Cubs’ scorers. “Visi is always incredible competition. We knew they’d be coming out for blood because of the last game.”
Last game, the teams’ regular season matchup, was a 12-3 Saints’ blowout. Wednesday, Visitation slowed the Saints’ high-powered and multifaceted offense in the second half by keeping the ball away from the Cubs until late in the second half, when St. Stephen’s/St. Agnes made the final score deceptively lopsided with three goals in the final minute. As it has all season, the Saints’ scoring spread widely — Olivia Mikkelsen led with three goals, and three other players had two each — and Johns shined as the unquestioned star of the Saints’ victory.
“This just tops off my St. Stephen’s career,” Johns said. “It’s a great feeling — being able to do it with this team. Our team has become so close this year, it’s just great to win with this group of people.”
In a back-and-forth game, with what felt like the entire Madeira student body on hand, Potomac School scored last to take the ISL A championship, 12-11, over upstart Madeira at St. Andrew’s in Potomac.
Panthers midfielder Sheila Rietano scored with 13 seconds remaining to propel Potomac (12-8), in its first year in the A division. That goal stifled a massive comeback attempt from the Snails (9-6), who were down 8-4 with less than 20 minutes to play but rallied after Panthers top scorer Clare Kehoe went down with an injury and left momentum up for grabs.
Despite the best efforts of Madeira star Madison White, who Potomac Coach Clare Bordley said “tried to will the Snails to victory,” slicing through triple and quadruple teams and to the goal on several occasions, Madeira could not overcome a major possession disadvantage. Potomac earned 16 of 25 draw controls, just enough to hold off the Snails, who received a typically stellar performance from goalie Ingrid Boyum to keep them close.
Kehoe finished with four goals to pace the Panthers.
“Give all the credit to Madeira, they came out with so much passion, so much energy,” Bordley said. “We just tried to tell ourselves, be calm, be steady, and weather these runs. And we came up with some big plays in the second half.”
Related: Read more on the ISL A title game