“No ball in my goal!” she hollered again and again, once toward a teammate, another time at the goal, another in the general direction of the Maryland SoccerPlex turf.
Whether pleads or commands — or a little of both — her messages werewell-received: throughout 80 action-packed minutes, a ball never found her goal. Her Lions earned a 1-0 shutout win over Covenant Life in Germantown for their first PVAC girls’ soccer tournament title in two decades.
Zissman protected a lead nearly as long as she did her goal, as a smooth combination of one-touch passes led to a goal in the game’s opening minutes. Two-time PVAC player of the year Samantha Knapp received one of the final feeds and crossed it to freshman Dani Bernstein, who buried it in the top left corner. That goal was the product of some of “the best soccer we’ve played,” according to Lions Coach Jay Matula.
“I think I screamed at her, I took one touch and was so confident in who we had in there, I just crossed it in hoping. She got on the end of it and did a great job,” said Knapp, who scored 21 goals this season, including three in the PVAC playoffs. “When I saw it go in, I think I burst a vocal chord.”
From then on, and particularly in the game’s final minutes, the Lions held off a furious charge from the Cougars (10-4). The roles had been reversed in last year’s championship game: Jewish Day (8-1) came in undefeated in league play, Covenant Life took a lead, and the Lions tried in vain to recover their perfect season. So Thursday, they understood their opponents’ desperation as the Cougars fired shot after shot on goal. Once, a ball caromed off the crossbar. Another time, Zissman thwarted an attack, but it squirted back to Covenant Life for an open shot that somehow sailed wide.
“It was so scary,” Zissman said. “We were in the same position as them last year. It was more pressure and the time goes slower, so it’s scary, but it was worth it.”
Zissman made some big saves in the game’s final minutes, when the field seemed tilted toward her goal and tension gripped the Jewish Day half of the sideline. But with luck and with strong defense anchored by Naomi Cohen-Shields and with several fearless plays from Zissman, the Lions kept the ball out of their goal and held on for the title.
“I think the way our season went last year, being undefeated, we went into it with a different mindset,” Cohen-Shields said. “But this year, we really wanted it. We wouldn’t take no for an answer.”