If it seemed like the Thomas S. Wootton High School girls’ soccer team didn’t know what it was doing, or what kind of team it wanted to be, early this season, it didn’t. During a 2-6 start first-year Patriots coach Andrew Ratti, a 1989 Wootton graduate, said it’s possible the team implemented a different formation in every game.
“The first part of the season, they were figuring me out, I was figuring out our personnel,” Ratti said. “We played almost every formation trying to figure out what works best for us.”
The Patriots found it in an offensive-minded 3-4-3 rooted in a possession style soccer and have turned a corner in the last month, just in time to position themselves as a dangerous floater in the Class 4A West Region tournament that started a week ago. Wootton is undefeated in its last seven games, including a 3-2, first-round win over Col. Zadok Magruder. The Patriots faced the region’s bottom section’s second seed, Gaithersburg, Tuesday night but the game ended too late to be included in this edition of The Gazette.
Whatever the result, Ratti said, the positive strides taken this fall will only continue to benefit the program next year as the 1998 state champion Wootton tries to regain its spot in the county’s elite.
“One of the things, I look back at what Dave Greene did with the program, we were a powerhouse when I played and after I left and I want to try and get the girls back to where we’re not losing in the first or second round of playoffs and a better record than what we’ve had [recently],” Ratti said. “It’s not a one-year process. We’re on our way.”
In what likely was a surprise to nobody, there were upsets in the opening round of the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association boys’ soccer tournament across all classifications.
One result, however, was particularly surprising, even when one takes into account how unpredictable this season has been.
On Saturday afternoon, Richard Montgomery beat Winston Churchill in a 4A West first-round match, 3-2.
Now, the context. Churchill, which featured one of the deeper rosters in the county, is bolstered by dynamic goal-scorers in J.J. Van Der Merwe and Nathan Ferdowski and finished first in the 4A South Division during the regular season. The Bulldogs went 10-3-1 (4-1-0 in division) and scored 32 goals while allowing 12. The Rockets, on the other hand, were last in the 4A South. Plagued by an inability to score all season, Richard Montgomery only found the back of the net nine times and allowed 22 goals. They went 3-10-1 (1-4-0 in division) and lost to Churchill, 2-0, on October 17.
Oddly enough, that was the score at halftime of Saturday’s match. But somehow, as if county coaches needed a reminder as to the volatile parity in the league this year, the Rockets rallied to score three goals — one third of their previous total on the season — to upend the Bulldogs.
“I’ve been at RM 10 years now and this has been the most parity I’ve ever seen,” said Rockets coach Chamy Wijeratne. “We’ve had some bad luck this year and we haven’t scored as many goals as we needed to, but the guys kept believing and none of the players gave up.”
Of the Montgomery County games that were played in the 4A bracket in the first round, four went into overtime. One such game was between Walter Johnson and Bethesda-Chevy Chase where Nicholas Montes scored the winner in the first overtime.
“I cannot recall a season where it was so open,” Wildcats coach Hector Morales said. “I feel like the first playoff game is like the first game of the regular season, you’ve just got to get that first one under you.”
The other matches that took extra time to decide: Walt Whitman edged Kennedy in penalty kicks, Sherwood beat Springbrook also in PKs and Wootton downed Northwest in overtime.