Washington International senior Steven Lofton generally punctuates his goals with a flip. But after finding the net in the second half of Thursday’s Potomac Valley Athletic Conference Division A final, the forward took his celebration in a different direction.
Rather than risk slipping on the wet turf, Lofton happily settled for a hastily choreographed dance with senior midfielder Yonathan Dawit, the player who had set up what turned out to be the game-winning goal. The Red Devils clinched their second PVAC tournament title in three seasons, knocking off Sandy Spring, 1-0, at the Maryland SoccerPlex in Boyds.
“It was just like all this weight came off of our shoulders and then we could really play.” Lofton said of his 55th-minute tally. “Our entire season really did amount to something. Sweeping the [regular season and playoff] banners, that’s huge.”
Top-seeded Washington International (17-3-1) spent much of the early going playing defense, and Lofton failed to convert the team’s best opportunity to score when he squandered a breakaway chance.
The Red Devils — who lost to the Wildebeests in last season’s tournament final — seized control of the pace after halftime. They managed several promising looks on net but only capitalized once against junior goalkeeper Luke Murray, rewarding an impressive individual effort from Dawit.
He muscled the ball away from a defender near the top of the 18-yard box, sprinted toward the end line and fired the ball across the goal mouth. With Murray off his line, Lofton had an easy tap-in for his 15th goal of the season and a reason to try out his new celebration dance with Dawit.
“It’s good to see the team having fun in such a big game,” said senior defender Matthew Khinda, who was named the tournament’s most valuable player. “It shows they didn’t let the pressure get to them and just had fun out there. That’s the way we play.”
In the boys’ Division AA final, Jewish Day scored twice in the second half for a 2-0 win over Covenant Life. Senior Ethan Walfish converted a penalty kick to help the Lions (11-1-1) break the deadlock, and freshman Jacob Myers added another goal in the game’s final minute.
Washington International senior Catherine Tanner didn’t find many opportunities in open space in the girls’ soccer final, but the forward proved she only needed one to make a difference. The Red Devils made Tanner’s 12th-minute strike stand up, beating Sandy Spring, 1-0, to take their third straight tournament title.
“I’ve got to say scoring like that is one of the best feelings,” said Tanner, who ripped the shot under the far post from the right side of the 18-yard box. “There were times when we were up [in possession] and times when they were up, but for us to have that lead was just incredible.”
Tanner — an honorable mention All-Met last fall — is used to dealing with the opponent’s best defender, and she spent a good portion of Thursday’s game trying to set up teammates around the goal.
She was more aggressive on her scoring play after receiving a pass down the right wing in stride from Anja Soderstrom Feyzioglu. With a defender giving chase, she settled for an early shot and placed it perfectly into the net.
“You think, ‘Well, maybe [the shot was] a bit lucky,’ but actually, she probably meant it to be honest with you,” Coach Colin Buck said. “She’s been doing it for us all year. ... She’s just a very determined player. She doesn’t like losing at all.”
Sophomore Sophie Whitehouse made six saves to record the shutout. The goalie made her best stop with about four minutes left, diving to her right to grab freshman Elle Wassertzug’s shot ticketed for the lower left corner.