When it comes to penalty kicks there are some players, no matter how good they are, who shy away from the pressure situation. Fortunately for the Walt Whitman High School girls’ soccer team, Clare Severe, who was called upon to kick the possible game-clinching shot in the penalty kick round of Friday’s Class 4A West Region Section I final against Winston Churchill, is not one of them.
“Before I even called her name I could see [Severe] wanted it,” Whitman coach Greg Herbert said. “She’s so competitive. I could see her light up and get excited.”
Severe didn’t let any of her feelings, excitement or admitted nerves, show as she trotted up to the ball and calmly placed a right-footed kick just inside the right post to seal Whitman’s win, 4-1 in penalty kicks. The Vikings, making their second straight region final appearance, are scheduled to play Thomas S. Wootton, which upended top-seeded Quince Orchard in the Section II final, Tuesday at Paint Branch. Whitman is seeking its first state tournament appearance since winning the 2004 championship.
“This was a great win, we really wanted it, but we know our work isn’t finished,” said Whitman senior midfielder Aliza Wolfe, who scored the Vikings’ goal in regulation. “We want to keep working as hard as we can and we want to win states.”
The fact that Friday’s game even went to overtime, let alone penalty kicks, is a huge testament to the Churchill defense. The Vikings (14-1-1) were on offense for about 90 percent of Friday’s contest. Though they did miss some wide open attempts — Severe attributed that to issues with nerves in front of the frame — Churchill’s (12-4-1) defense did a tremendous job withstanding the almost constant pressure it was under. The Vikings tallied 18 shots to Churchill’s five. Bulldogs goalie Tania Mamdouhi racked up about 12 saves.
The Bulldogs managed to push forward for a stretch of about 10 minutes toward the end of the first half and were awarded three restarts within scoring range but were unable to score. Senior forward Eleni Boutsikaris did score the game-tying goal during that stretch, though, after Wolfe gave Whitman the early lead.
“Whitman deserved to win that game, they were the agressor, they put pressure on us,” Churchill coach Haroot Hakopian said. “[Whitman] hit everything [it] had to hit, We were lucky to be in penalty kicks, they did what they had to do.”
Whitman goalie Erin McClanahan gave Whitman about as good a start to the penalty kick round as a team could ask for by making a diving save on Churchill’s first attempt — Wolfe had already buried her shot.
All four Whitman kickers — Wolfe, Emily Martin, Kate Morrison and Severe — converted on their kicks while only Juliana Comer found the net for Churchill.
“[That save] was unbelievable,” Herbert said. “Erin’s had some difficulties this year but I was so impressed with the way she showed [Friday]. We’ve been working on penalty kicks for two weeks. For her to get the first save, that just gave the girls confidence. I knew it was over.”
Walt Whitman 2, Churchill 1 (4-1 penalty kicks)
Whitman (14-1-1) 1 0 0 0 0 — 2
Churchill (12-4-1) 1 0 0 0 0 — 1
Whitman — Aliza Wolfe
Churchill — Eleni Boutsikaris
Whitman — 4 (Aliza Wolfe, Emily Martin, Kate Morrison, Clare Severe)
Churchill — 1 (Juliana Comer)