Offensive outburst propels Blazers to 5-3 victory over Wildcats
BLAZER STADIUM, OCT. 24—
When the final whistle pierced the frigid air on Tuesday night, the Blair varsity girls' soccer team rushed to the center of Blazer stadium amid enthusiastic cheers from the crowd, jubilant over their victory. The Blazers (7-7) snapped a three game losing streak with a decisive 5-3 win over Walter Johnson on senior night, Blair's last home game of the regular season.
Coach Robert Gibb was "euphoric" about the victory that ended a season of ups and downs for the Blazers. "We were explosive and we were excited," he said. "It was nice to play up to our potential."
The Blazers did not begin the game with their best play, allowing the Wildcats to take the lead in the 16th minute. A Walter Johnson player threaded a pass into the center of the box, breaking through Blair's defensive line. Before the defense could recover, a Wildcat striker collected the pass and snuck a shot under diving goalkeeper Maggie Sullivan.
With Walter Johnson in the lead, the Blazers found themselves struggling for the offensive breakthrough that would tie the game. The Blazer's first opportunity came from a free kick at the top of the box, but sophomore Anna Rassman's shot was just wide of the goal. Blair kept fighting and maintained possession of the ball to capitalize a few plays later. Junior Emmy Arce collected a throw-in from Rassman on the right wing of the field. Arce took a few dribbles down the side before ripping off a shot, and the Blazer bench erupted in cheers as the ball curved into the left corner of the goal.
Arce's goal, her first of the season, was the turning point of the game. "It was the moment the team came together," said Gibb.
The Wildcats tried to respond but the Blazers' defense stayed strong, repelling a shot attempt and corner kick by Walter Johnson. As the Blazers began to control possession and worked the ball on offense, freshman Kelly Pelz-Butler sent a throw-in from the right sideline sailing into a clump of players in the middle of the box. The Walter Johnson goalie came off her line to retrieve the rolling ball, but freshman Darcy Pelz-Butler beat her to it and kicked the ball into the net to give Blair their first lead.
Two minutes later, the Blazers were on the attack again. Senior Elena Talbott received a pass in the midfield and lofted a beautiful ball over the Walter Johnson defense. Striker Annie Worden charged down the middle of the field and slammed the ball past the bewildered Wildcat goalie, bringing the shivering crowd to its feet in cheers. The Blazers ended the half with a 3-1 lead.
Walter Johnson opened the second half with a quick goal off of a free kick, but the Blazers squelched any hopes of a Wildcat comeback. Continuing their offensive domination, Blair scored again in the 55th minute, when striker Danielle Peck weaved past several defenders and carried the ball deep into the left corner. Peck passed the ball back to midfielder Devon Madison. Madison, a senior, took control of the ball and slotted a soaring shot into the top right corner of the goal from over 20 feet away.
The Blazers did not let the momentum drop, instead keeping up their intense defense and smart offense, scoring again in the 69th minute, when Worden ripped off a shot a few feet off the endline. The ball blazed across the width of the goal and settled into the left side for her second goal of the night, bringing the score to 5-2.
In the 75th minute, the Wildcats scored the final goal of the game when a midfielder dribbled down a quarter of the field for a one-on-one opportunity with Sullivan. Sullivan came up to meet the charging player but the shot slid by her left side. Walter Johnson continued pressuring Blair with hopes for a late game comeback, but the Blazers stopped a corner kick and penalty shot to earn their 5-3 victory.
After the game, the Blazers celebrated the team's 10 seniors—Sullivan, Madison, Peck, Talbott, Emma Liebmann, Jessie Wolcott, Becca Vogel, Sarah Curcio-Rudy, Alli Kator and Dalilah Bracamontes—with cake and presents.
The Blazers take on Northwest Friday in the first round of the playoffs. Gibb acknowledges that the game will be a "battle," but one that the Blazers are fully capable of winning. If the Blazers advance, they will play Wootton, a formidable opponent who has only lost one game. "I'd love to be in a position to play them," said Gibb. "We can rise to the occasion."
No matter the results of the impending playoffs, the varsity girls' soccer team, and especially the seniors, will always remember their triumph on Tuesday's senior night. "They can't take that away from us," said Gibb.
The varsity girls' soccer team plays its first playoff game at Northwest on Friday Oct. 27 at 5 p.m.
Rachita Sood. Rachita Sood wants you to tell her a joke. She probably won't get it, but she'll laugh anyways. In the little free time she has, Rachita enjoys jammin' to ROXANNE, dressing in earth-toned clothes and munching on Peeps. More »