By Carlos Alfaro
BALTIMORE — Friday at Loyola University’s Ridley Athletic Complex served as the setting for a historic night in girls varsity soccer, but history turned out not to be on the side of the Walt Whitman Vikings.
Instead, the Vikings witnessed the Perry Hall Gators’ first championship win at their expense, a 4-2 ending that saw both teams earn a yellow card each after putting their all into the last game of the season.
The trophy haul Friday night could have been double for the Whitman Vikings if they had beaten the Perry Hall Gators in girls varsity soccer; moments before kickoff, the boys’ team had just won their championship game against the Urbana Hawks.
It would have been the Viking girls’ fourth championship after a season in which they only lost one regular season game, their season opener against the Quince Orchard Cougars.
“We have the best backline in the state,” said Perry Hall head coach Matt Smoot, as he praised the players who stopped the Vikings from ever taking the lead or coming back.
The Gators’ defense took time for the Vikings to figure out, and when they did, it took set pieces to pierce.
It took eight minutes for Perry Hall’s first goal, a scrappy shot inside the penalty box as senior midfielder Annie Kim tapped in a ball that rebounded off senior goalkeeper Katie Stender-Moore.
The goal hit Whitman hard, as the team became disoriented and turnovers abounded. Quick passes by the Vikings led to nowhere, and often to the feet of a Gator rather than their own teammate. The Gators’ pressure had the Vikings scrambling to find their own players let alone the back of the net.
The high-pressure style of play that Perry Hall utilized began to backfire later in the first half as fatigue set in and the Vikings sought to be more possessive, reducing their runs into goal but taking more calculated shots.
With six minutes left until halftime, a shot from senior defender Morgan Weise to freshman forward Delaney Demartino was the clearest shot yet for the Vikings, a point-blank header that went wide.
Weise was the main placekicker of choice for Whitman, and with good reason. Her aim was unparalleled, and she was the main factor in many of the Vikings’ near misses and both of their goals.
“Set pieces are really dangerous for us, so it’s just kind of trying to send it in,” said Weise.
Senior forward Phoebe Canoles scored the second Gators goal after duping a Vikings defender and tapping the ball past Stender-Moore and into the net at point-blank range.
Weise’s targeted kicks, which were almost lethal to the Gators, and her assisting in two goals, brought the game to a tie.
In the span of five minutes, Weise assisted in two goals off free kicks. The first was a dangerous shot into a crowd of Gators, where freshman defender Grace Li tapped it in; the second bounced off the fist of Perry Hall goalkeeper Lauren Gwin and into the head of senior defender Sophie Nichols, who then beamed it into the back of the net.
With Nichols’s goal and the game tied up, the remaining 20 minutes would decide either a winner or overtime. Tensions were high, and senior Gators forward Ashlee Wilsynski and junior Vikings forward Grace Martin both received a yellow card after rough play.
Senior forward Kara Dietrich ensured that the Gators wouldn’t go to overtime, and broke the short-lived stalemate with a volley into the back of the net.
“I knew I had to step up for my team and try to get a goal in,” said Dietrich. “And I got two.”
With six minutes left until the end of the game, Dietrich struck again to ensure victory and hand her team their first girls’ soccer championship.
“After losing the first game of the season and then winning all the games after that, [it] is a testament to this team’s work ethic and what they produced this season,” said Whitman head coach Greg Herbert.