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By Eva Paspalis
BETHESDA — The Walt Whitman Vikings girls varsity soccer team hosted and defeated the Churchill Bulldogs by a score of 3-1 Monday on their brand-new field at Jerome Marco Stadium.
Monday’s game was just the second one played on the new turf after it was overhauled earlier in the season. The Vikings finished off the first of four games this week by improving to 6-1 and dropping Churchill to 5-2 just a couple of weeks before the playoffs.
Three different Vikings scored a goal, and senior Morgan Wiese didn’t waste time putting Whitman on the board first. Wiese blew the ball past Churchill goalie Kellie Cohen at 35:26 in the first half. Senior Sophie Nichols scored at 12:39 to bring the score to 2-0.
Meanwhile, Whitman goalie Katie Stender-Moore stayed busy, making sure the relentless Bulldogs didn’t score. Stender-Moore strung together a series of spectacular saves, including one goal attempt the senior caught in her arms while laying on her back.
“I thought we played very well, but I thought their goalkeeper was the difference in the game,” said Churchill head coach Haroot Hakopian. “She made four tremendous saves that quite honestly, most high-school goalkeepers do not make. We know Katie; all the players here know each other very well. We talked about the fact that she did what she was supposed to do.”
Senior Ally Ruvo was the only Bulldog who was able to get past Stender-Moore. After a scoreless first half, Ruvo fired in a goal at 14:08 to ensure the Bulldogs wouldn’t lose by shutout.
However, Whitman sophomore Jaclyn Morgan responded at 12:10 after an assist from junior Meagan Olsen to take the wind out of Churchill’s sails.
“The third goal was the killer, because we had just scored ours; we came right back and scored, and the intensity of the game picked up,” said Hakopian. “There was some miscommunication between the defenders and the goalkeeper and that led to their third goal. That’s the way it is in our division; all the teams are good.”
Getting past the Bulldogs’ regional opponents in the postseason is the key to a deep playoff run for Hakopian. Whitman head coach Gregory Herbert said he tells his players to take games and opponents one at a time, particularly this week, when the Vikings are playing four games – a few of which were rescheduled due to inclement weather earlier in the season.
“This is a really busy week, and we have a big rivalry game against Bethesda-Chevy Chase on Saturday, but we can’t think past Richard Montgomery and Damascus,” said Herbert. “Hopefully, at the end of this regular season, we’re playing our best soccer so we can get some momentum going into the playoffs. ‘Step by step and brick by brick’ is the big mantra here.”
The Vikings will play the Richard Montgomery Rockets, and the Bulldogs are set to face the Northwood Gladiators on Wednesday, Oct. 10.