WHEATON – The Walter Johnson High School girls soccer team has had a solid 2019 regular season, coming off two consecutive wins to face Wheaton (3-7) on their home turf on Oct. 12. The Knights started with a record of 3-1 but have lost five straight games since.
The losing streak continued as the Wildcats (8-3) proved to be too much for Wheaton as Walter Johnson won by the score of 2-0 .
“They’re a good team,” said Walter Johnson Head Coach Josh Kinnetz. “We just had to be patient to break them down, and we showed the patience, and we’re able to find the back of the net when it mattered.”
The first goal came very early on, when Wildcats senior striker Olivia McBerry received a pass, quickly turned her body around and fired a shot into the net for the tally. It is the senior’s eighth goal of the season.
“Basically, I just got a through ball from my player,” said McBerry, “and I saw that she was going pretty fast, so I kind of used her momentum to my advantage.”
“Olivia has been the focal point of our attack all season,” said Kinnetz. “She comes up in big moments.”
The Wildcats continued lobbying more shots on goal to extend. Their lead after McBerry’s goal, Walter Johnson fired seven more shots, which either resulted in a save or just went wide off the net.
The Knights kept the game close, thanks to junior defender/goalkeeper Marianna Moreau stepping in for the injured junior Esmeranda Paul to make 12 saves; 10 of those came in the second half.
“It’s pretty impressive since she’s not our main goalie,” said Wheaton Head Coach Travis Woodruff. “She’s played amazing in all of our games the last couple times in goal.”
The Wildcats attack continued to take control of the game in the second half, as they bombarded Wheaton’s territory with more attempts on frame. They shot the ball at the goal 13 more times before finally scoring on the 14th attempt when senior striker Emily Crites received a crossing pass from junior striker Nicole Caceres for the game-clinching goal.
“It wasn’t my best goal,” said Crites. “It hit off my shin guard, but I mean, a goal is a goal. It went in, that’s all that matters.”
“Emily has done a nice job of putting on the work,” said Kinnetz, “stretching backlines in the opposition, and also coming up big in (at) times.”
In the end, Walter Johnson finished the afternoon with an incredible 22 shots, as Caceres led all Wildcats with five shots, followed by McBerry’s three attempts. Senior midfielder Emmi Mills also finished the match with three shots.
“It was a good win,” said McBerry. “We kind of went into our depth for a lot of players, which is good. They got a lot of playing time.”
Though while the Wildcats attack was strong, the Knights’ attack was mostly non-existent, only firing off three shots, all in the first half. Nevertheless, Woodruff was still glad his team kept it competitive.
“I think our team played really well,” said Woodruff. “The last-second goal was a heartbreaker, but we were in the game the whole time, and I’m pretty proud of the way we played, even though we lost.”
Woodruff was also impressed with a couple of his players, like junior midfielder/striker Savanah Thompson, who played defense for the first time, and junior striker/midfielder Jaeda Woodruff, keep the ball in the game on the on the opponents side of the field.
Walter Johnson junior goalkeeper Danielle Nevett started the day in net, while her fellow junior, Elizabeth Mayo, finished things off, though neither player had to make any saves.
“To their credit, they stayed alert the whole time,” said Kinnetz, “which is kind of tough for a keeper who has not seen action to stay alert because at any point in time you have to be ready.”
Both teams have two more games to go in the regular season; Crites feels confident about their chances in the state playoffs, as they loom closer.
“I think we have a lot of work to do,” said Crites. “Playoffs are starting soon, and we need to really grind to make sure we’re able to go far.”