In the tightly packed, talent-loaded Montgomery 4A South girls’ soccer standings, one loss can dim a team’s playoff chances. Two can doom them.
So when No. 9 Churchill, with two losses, headed to unbeaten Whitman, which would follow Monday’s game with one against No. 5 Bethesda-Chevy Chase on Wednesday, both programs likely were fighting for their seasons.
The result was a ferocious thriller. By the time Aliza Wolfe drove home a free kick midway through the second 10-minute overtime to give Whitman a 2-1 win, a half-dozen players had been helped off the field, yellow cards had been issued and voices — of coaches, players and a large Whitman cheering section complete with a cowbell — had been lost.
“They put out a great performance. They really came at us, and they hit us hard,” Wolfe said. “But just the number of times we got up and pushed through and worked our hardest . . . this is so nice.”
Wolfe’s goal came after an extended injury timeout for a Vikings player — the third such delay of the game. After that player was helped off the field, Wolfe took advantage of a deep free-kick opportunity, sliding a seeing-eye shot through traffic and past the goalkeeper for the win.
The goal validated a gritty effort by the Vikings (7-0-1), who were forced to shift players in and out of position as injuries created voids.
One of those who adapted was Whitman senior Emily Martin, who had to be helped off the field in the second half. She came back and moved from her natural position on the right side to the center of the back line, stablizing the defense as she urged her team to keep its composure.
“When we play our strength, which is possession and not kick-and-run, that’s when we really can move the ball and do what we’re known for,” Martin said. “I think not just the captains but everyone on the field was a leading force. Especially in these overtimes, we really dug deep.”
The Vikings struck first when they stole the ball in the midfield and Anna Gurney played a perfect leading ball to Emma Anderson. Anderson found herself one-on-one with the Churchill goalkeeper, and lined the ball far out of her reach for the goal. Churchill (5-3-1) struck back on a free kick by sophomore Nicole Brodkowitz from just outside the box early in the second half.
The win keeps the Vikings the lone undefeated team in Montgomery 4A, so as Coach Greg Herbert put it, his team “controls its own destiny.”
“We’re in the driver’s seat, it’s just a matter of where we go from here: Do we build on this, or do we have a setback against B-CC on Wednesday?”