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Persistence Pays Off for Undefeated Woodson

Standout senior Danielle King returning to form after hamstring injury.

After a disappointing first half on Monday ended with a scoreless tie against Yorktown, the Woodson girls soccer team looked to force the issue.

Around the 60-minute mark, the Cavaliers fired a barrage of shots. Danielle King misfired with a header before setting up Cassidy Mercier, who also came up empty. Erin Havard failed in her attempt at the top-left corner of the net, Elizabeth Gaski was denied by Yorktown goalkeeper Sophie Frank and Kaitlin Brooks was wide left. Mercier got another chance, but Frank came up with another save.

"It was frustrating in the first half because we didn’t play our best," King said. "Finally, after talking at halftime, we definitely showed up in the second half and [had] one opportunity after another. Finally, it was like, ‘When is it going to go in? When is it going to go in?’"

In the 73rd minute, Havard’s free kick gave Mercier yet another chance. This time, the sophomore found the back of the net, leading Woodson to a 1-0 victory over the Patriots at Greenbrier Stadium in Arlington. It wasn’t an ideal performance, but the Cavaliers remained undefeated, improving their record to 6-0-1. ESPNRISE.com ranked Woodson No. 7 nationally in the April 11 edition of its spring soccer POWERADE FAB 50 poll.

"As a team, we’ve got to finish better," third-year Woodson head coach Warren Williams said. "We had ample opportunities. Balls are sitting around on the line and near the line and we’ve just got to find somebody to tuck those in the back of the net."

While the Cavaliers were limited to one goal, they showed an ability to create chances.

"I thought [the Cavaliers] dictated a lot of those 50-50 balls and challenges and they played very direct," Yorktown head coach Vicky Brunt said. "They just kind of keep getting at it, keep hitting it forward, keep hitting it forward and if we’re not going to go in hard and try to anticipate those things" we’re going to struggle.

WOODSON’S ONE-GOAL EFFORT snapped a four-game streak of scoring at least three goals. The Cavaliers outscored their opponents 15-3 through seven games and were not scored upon during three non-Patriot District contests. Woodson opened the season with a 1-0 win over Fairfax on March 16 and played defending state champion Stone Bridge to a scoreless tie on March 24. After four consecutive district wins, the Cavaliers defeated Yorktown.

Woodson is off to a strong start despite limited contribution from King, a senior standout midfielder and defender who will play at Virginia Tech next season. King pulled her left hamstring in the preseason and missed the team’s first four games. She saw reduced minutes against South County (April 5) and Annandale (April 7) before playing the majority of Monday’s contest at Yorktown. King said she was sore after her first two games, but is now feeling "pretty good."

"She’s been hurt, so we’ve missed her," Williams said. "… This was the first game where I sort of took the reins off and you can see she’s special. She attacks people, she defends people, she chases people down, she’s pretty dynamic. She just brings another little spark that we didn’t have before."

Last season, King and the Cavaliers lost in the opening round of the Northern Region tournament. This year, King has set her expectations high.

"Honestly, I think this team is worthy of winning states," she said. "We have a lot of awesome players out on the team and I think our bench is so deep. With me being out at the beginning of the season, the girls have played awesome."

ANOTHER KEY COMPONENT to Woodson’s success is senior Marlee Stynchula. Last year, she saw time at goalkeeper before being moved into the field and becoming a goal-scoring force. She is also a physical presence and a team leader.

"About halfway through [last] season we needed someone who could score goals," Williams said. "Who knew she could score goals? She didn’t tell us. She ended up with about 10 goals in nine games last year. … She’s just a tough kid. She brings energy. She’s not the most skilled player, but everything she has she’s going to leave out on the field. She’s a big emotional leader for us. She does things that get kids fired up and she plays really hard. She’s never dirty but, man, she plays hard. …

"If you were to go to a guys game, you’d [expect it]. But on the girls side, girls aren’t used to it."

King, Stynchula, Havard (defender/midfielder), Brooks (midfielder/forward), Brett Thomas (defender/midfielder) and Lindsey Heigh (midfielder) are the team’s six seniors.

Junior Jessica Ferrari is the Cavaliers’ goalkeeper.

Woodson will host Lake Braddock at 7 p.m. on April 27.