One goal turned out to be enough for the W.T. Woodson High girls’ soccer team in its 1-0 Northern Region tournament title game victory over talented and determined McLean High on Friday, June 3. The finals contest was played on a brilliant, late spring night at James Madison High School in Vienna.
Both Woodson (14-2-3) and Mclean (14-4-2) were scheduled to compete at this week’s eight-team state AAA tournament.
In the region title match, a Woodson first half goal by Erin Havard within the first 6-1/2 minutes of the game held up in the Cavaliers’ shutout victory. On the goal, Havard, a senior midfielder, received a pass from her left from teammate Brett Thomas. Then, from the left wing area of the field, Havard sent a solid, lofting shot off her left foot high into the right side of the McLean net from 30 yards out.
"Brett passed it to me and I one-touched it [to gain control]," said Havard, who is right-footed but scored the key goal with her left foot. "I hit it like I normally do. I like getting power on my shots. It looked like the goalie really reached for it."
The ball went in and the Cavaliers had the early game momentum.
Late in the contest, the action was especially riveting over the final 15 minutes as both Woodson and McLean made rush after rush towards the opposing goal.
"The game was pretty well matched," said Havard. "They’d go down the field and we’d come right back. It was back and forth. I held my breath [down the stretch] but I had confidence we’d hold on."
McLean’s Kristina Bettner described the game as a "dog fight."
"Both teams played as hard as they could," said Bettner. "They got the early goal. I think this is one of the few games where we were down [on the scoreboard]. So it was a different mentality [being behind]. At first it was devastating. But then we calmed down."
Both teams made strong runs with the ball but only the one goal was scored over the 80 minutes of play. Most of McLean’s shots on goal came on medium to long-range shots which Woodson senior goalie Marlee Stynchula was able to corral.
Havard never really thought her early goal would be the only score of the game, but it was.
"At that point, no," she said. "It was so early in the game."
For Woodson, it was their first region crown since 2004.
"We haven’t won it in so long," said Woodson forward/midfielder Elizabeth Gaski, a First Team All-Region selection this season. "It feels great to bring the title back to Woodson, especially for our seniors. I definitely though this would be the year we could do it."
<b>WOODSON REACHED</b> the region finals by defeating Chantilly High two days earlier, 3-0, on Wednesday, June 1 at Madison. The contest, which took place on Madison’s turf field, was played through on and off rain over the first 23 minutes of the game before skies cleared and the sun broke out.
The Cavaliers, the No. 2-seed from the Patriot District, scored all of their goals in the second half following a scoreless first half.
"After a halftime talk, we knew we needed to get a goal early to set the tone for the second half and to show Chantilly we were the better team," said Woodson senior midfielder Danielle King.
The scores came from senior midfielder Havard, junior forward/midfielder Gaski, and freshman forward Teresa Fruchterman. Gaski’s goal — a header from close range — came off a corner kick from Havard and made the score 2-0 less than seven minutes into the half.
"It was just a great finish," said Woodson coach Warren Williams, of the goal off the corner. "Great [corner] kick, great finish."
Havard, a few minutes earlier, had scored the game’s first goal less than four minutes into the second half when she sent a high, well-struck shot into the left side of the net from 28 yards off the right side.
"Erin, when she hits the ball, hits it real hard," said Williams. "She got the ball on frame. The goalie looked to be screened."
Fruchterman netted the game’s final goal with 5 minutes, 30 seconds left off a breakaway in which Chantilly charging goal tender Lauren Mashinski nearly stopped the shot on a slide tackle attempt. But the ball trickled by the goalie and Fruchterman found herself with no one between herself and the goal. She caught up to the slow rolling ball and scooted it in from just in front of the goal line.
Woodson goalie Marlee Stynchula earned the win in the net for the Cavaliers.
The win put Woodson into the finals for the first time since 2004 when the Cavaliers won both the region and state AAA crowns under then head coach Sean Burke.
Williams was thrilled with his team’s latter half play versus Chantilly, the region champion two years ago.
"We got after Chantilly in the second half," said Williams. "We talked at halftime about how we had to get the ball wide and deep."
The coach credited sophomore forward Cassidy Mercier with playing a strong overall game and helping get the ball to the outside and to the corners on offensive transitions.
Woodson (14-2-3) reached the 16-team tournament finals with wins over Madison, Oakton, and now Chantilly, outscoring its opponents 7-0 over those three games.
"We’ve gotten better each game at regionals," said King. "We’re definitely coming together as a team."
King, recently named the Region Player of the Year, will be playing collegiate soccer at Virginia Tech next school year.
"Honestly, it was very exciting to hear I got it," she said. "It’s an honor."
Chantilly, with the semifinals loss, saw its season end at 10-5-2. The Chargers had beaten both Yorktown and Stone Bridge to reach the final four.
"We played amazing those first two wins," said Chantilly senior defender Madyson Brown, of the Chargers’ 4-1 first round win over Yorktown and their 3-1 quarterfinals round win over Stone Bridge. "The loss to Woodson is disappointing. It’s my senior year and I wanted us to go further."
Brown, who is set to play at James Madison University next year, was named to the First Team All-Region Team as a defender. Woodson players named to the First Team were Gaski (forward), King (midfield), and junior Jessica Ferarri (goalie). The All-Region First Team was announced following Wednesday’s first semifinals game.