NORTH POTOMAC – On the last night of the regular season on Oct. 19, the Wootton High School boys soccer team was looking to finish undefeated before the start of the state playoffs.
However, another strong boys soccer team, in Walt Whitman (11-1-1), visited the Patriots (11-1) and ended their undefeated dreams. A lone goal by senior Abe Hoogeveen was enough as the Vikings came away with the 1-0 shutout victory to hand Wootton their first loss of the year.
“I’m happy with the way we played,” said Whitman Head Coach Dave Greene. “It was a good night here. It was good for soccer. I’m happy that we won because I thought we deserved it.”
Both teams were competitive on the pitch throughout the night, as they both created multiple scoring opportunities and played solid defense.
However, Hoogeveen capitalized 20 minutes into the first half as he smashed a header into the Patriots’ net for the game’s only goal.
“Glad to help the team get the win over undefeated Wootton,” said Hoogeveen. “It was a great game. Great team effort.”
The team was impressed with Hoogeveen’s goal, including Greene.
“He’s been doing that most of the season,” said Greene. “He’s dangerous when he’s on those set plays and I’m glad that he finished. But I thought he defended really well tonight. He was more valuable in the back than he was scoring the goal.”
The Vikings finished with seven total shots in the first half, including the Hoogeveen goal, while senior Aaron Gunther led all players with three shots. The visitors added three more shots in the second half as they looked to maintain their lead.
“We have really good attacking,” said Gunther. “Connection’s getting better and better. We could’ve put a few more away but I was pretty happy with the way we were going in the first half, which is quite good.”
Wootton came close to scoring several times, as they fired off nine total shots in the game. The Patriots almost tied it early in the second half when an attempted shot from senior Alek Wroblewski bounced off the crossbar which led to a header from senior Andy Ram. However, Vikings senior James Severe cleared the ball away from the penalty area.
“First of all, this game tonight was a great event,” said Wootton Head Coach Doug Schaussler. “The first 10 minutes of the first half and the first 10 minutes of the second half, we dominated, we had chances, we could’ve put them away. We didn’t.”
In net, senior Jonathan Lee made six saves to keep the Patriots in the game. According to Schaussler, Lee has progressed since stepping in for the school’s all-state goalkeeper Matthew Kopsidas, who tore his ACL in the preseason.
“Jonathan, one of his strongest points is actually making saves,” said Schaussler. “He’s done a terrific job for us all year.”
Meanwhile, as Wootton continued to look for the tying goal, Whitman sophomore Austin Mboijana made two key saves and stayed alert for the entire 80 minutes.
While there may have been a winner and loser in their season finale meeting, both teams have high expectations for each other heading into the state playoffs. They will enter as No. 1 seeds in their respective sections of the 4A West region.
“It’s a big challenge,” said Gunther. “It’s win or go home, so we’re going to have to keep this effort that we’ve brought today for the entire playoffs.”
Wootton may not have finished the regular season undefeated, but Schaussler knows what’s more important with the postseason.
“When you play a game like this at home it helps you get better,” said Schaussler. “If you win, that’s great, and it feels wonderful. But sometimes losing a game like this is an advantage because it shows you that you have to be better.”
Meanwhile, despite defeating a dominant Wootton team before the playoffs start, Greene treated Saturday night’s game like a regular game as the real season begins.
“The game didn’t really have a lot of meaning,” said Greene. “No disrespect to anybody, but we’re both going to be in the top three seeds in the state. Hopefully, we get through.”