Even with his team graduating just two seniors and returning three players who received All-Met honors from last year’s Class AAA Northern Region semifinalist, W.T. Woodson girls’ soccer coach Warren Williams took a cautious approach to the early part of this season.
Last year, his talented unit got off to a 0-4-1 start, and that was without the rainy and snowy weather that has cut into their practice time during the first few weeks of this season. With both factors in mind, Williams and his five seniors have focused on setting the tone with strong defense and fundamental offense, resulting in a 4-0 record and a scoring margin of 17-1.
“With the weather being so rough to start the season, it might be a blessing in terms of what’s working now because we’re just playing very simple soccer and it’s been a pretty good recipe for success so far,” Williams said. “Our upperclassmen have been pretty vocal about making sure we come ready to play.”
The message quickly trickled down to some of the No. 4 Cavaliers’ younger members, such as Kelly Loman. With one of her teammates sidelined by injury in a March 28 contest with Herndon, the freshman stepped in at forward to score four goals during an 8-0 win.
“Everyone was just mentally checked in and my teammates gave me good passes,” Loman said. “I was actually surprised when I found out I made varsity this year, but I guess Coach Williams liked that I wasn’t afraid to take on the upperclassmen in tryouts. When I found out I made it, I had a smile from ear to ear.”
Taking on Woodson’s upperclassmen is no easy task. Leading the defense is first-team All-Met Regan Dalberg (three goals), alongside Loman at forward is second-team All-Met Teresa Fruchterman (three goals) and at midfield is junior Kaitlyn McCurdy, who was an honorable mention All-Met last year. What’s more, Maura Aman and Francesca Falvo have provided strong play along the outside and at the midfield position, serving as two of several players that Williams trusts to insert anywhere in the lineup and produce results.
“We’re a little bit deeper this year and that’s a good feeling, especially early in the season when the kids’ production usually comes in waves as they accustomed to being out there again,” Williams said. “I hope we keep defending well because that will spark our offense. It’s still early, though, so you sort of just hold your breath until May.”
Ally Bartlett wasn’t around to experience Champe’s 0-16 campaign last season, but the moment she became one of eight freshmen to make this year’s varsity team, she took on the burden of snapping the team’s string of futility.
“I was really nervous before our first game because we hadn’t had a chance to practice together a lot,” Bartlett said. “Knowing what the team went through last season motivated us, but it was still a matter of actually getting that first win.”
Led by Bartlett’s hat trick in her first varsity contest, the Knights not only notched their first win in school history with a 8-0 decision against Skyline on March 19, they also surpassed last season’s scoring total of seven goals. Along with Bartlett, five other Knights scored in the win, setting a solid foundation for a team with no seniors and a tough schedule as a member of Conference 28.
“To see the girls experience some success so early in the season for all the hard work they put in is very rewarding,” Knights Coach David Madlin said. “We have some very talented, technical players, but our conference is very physical, so we have to learn to match that physicality and earn the right to play the game how we want to.”
The process of building on their season-opening success has proven difficult, as the Knights have dropped their last four games, with three decided by just one goal. Still, the team has displayed its share of bright spots. Sophomore midfielder Sierra Barton has emerged as a capable goal scorer alongside Bartlett, and after allowing 110 goals last season, the Knights have only been outscored by a margin of 12-11 through five games this year.
With games against No. 7 Loudoun County and defending state champ Woodgrove on the horizon, the Knights are working quickly to mold their talented pieces into a unit ripe for more wins.
“We can work on things like shooting quicker, but to get that first win took a lot off our shoulders and showed our hard work and technique,” Bartlett said. “It was a great feeling to celebrate that win, and if we keep communicating like we do and passing, we believe more wins will come.”
Chantilly, which has outscored opponents 8-0, and Battlefield, which has outscored opponents 18-0, will face off on Monday. . . . Allyson Brown has five goals in two games after recording a hat trick in Briar Woods’ win against Loudoun Valley on Tuesday. . . . Four of the six teams in Conference 14 are undefeated: Briar Woods, Broad Run, Tuscarora (Va.) and Stone Bridge.
1. Chantilly (2-0) LW: 1
2. Battlefield (2-0) LW: 2
3. Briar Woods (2-0) LW: 3
4. W.T. Woodson (4-0) LW: 4
5. Westfield (2-0) LW: 6
6. Woodbridge (2-0) LW: 5
7. Loudoun County (3-0) LW: 8
8. Broad Run (3-0) LW: 9
9. Forest Park (2-1) LW: 10
10. Yorktown (3-1) LW: 7
Records through Tuesday.