CATONSVILLE, Md. — On the eve of Whitman’s Maryland 4A final matchup with Catonsville, Coach Greg Herbert chose to focus on the past. He gave each player a sheet of paper that stressed the idea of Vikings soccer as stretching beyond the starters, past the bench and back to the players who have come before.
And in the huddle at UMBC Stadium on Saturday morning, he listed names of athletes from prior years — Division I recruits, leaders, top scorers — who never got the chance to play on this state championship stage.
With a pair of late second-half goals from Anna Gurney, the Vikings seized their opportunity and the second title in school history with a 2-0 victory over the Comets.
“I’ve been waiting for a team to match the one from my first year coaching when we went to states. It’s been nine years waiting for that team to come about,” Herbert said. “The talent that these girls have — from the starters to the last girls off the bench — I really think is unrivaled in the previous teams I’ve coached.”
The fifth-ranked Vikings (16-1-1) kept consistent pressure on Catonsville (17-2) for the first 70 minutes of the game. Several Whitman shots sailed just inches above the cross bar in the first half, while the Comets’ closest attempts came off a few dangerous corners from Anna Higdon on the left side.
Whitman finally broke through with 8 minutes 23 seconds left. A perfect cross from senior Rice recruit Aliza Wolfe on a corner kick found Gurney in the center of the box, who headed it inside the right post. Gurney headed in the insurance goal four minutes later off another corner kick from Kristen Bissell.
“We knew we just needed a goal, but I think that one of our strengths was that we just kept our composure,” Gurney said. “Honestly, we just had a lot of the girls involved in the attack.”
That composure paired with technical skill, speed and aggression allowed the Vikings to quietly but confidently overwhelm opponents all season.
Wolfe dribbled easily around Catonsville double-teams with bursts of speed and quick touches. Gurney’s sprints up the side and into scoring position have helped her lead the Vikings in goals for three years in a row. Herbert’s strongest team since the Vikings’ 2004 state title squad has five college commits and more than enough individual skill. This season was about forging them into one unit, he said.
The title game marked the end of six years under Herbert’s guidance for Gurney, Wolfe and defender Emily Martin. The trio played for Herbert on the Pyle Middle School team for two years, and all made the varsity squad as freshmen.
“I can’t believe this is my last game here,” Martin said. “I feel like I’ve been here forever and will be here forever.”