Just about everything that could have gone wrong for the Walt Whitman High School boys soccer team, did go wrong.
Yet after an up-and-down regular season, the depleted but talented Vikings of Bethesda still found themselves deep in the playoffs, in the 4A West Region semifinals.
It was there that the season finally came to an end. With starting goalkeeper Ian Atkinson sidelined (broken arm) and top offensive threat David Mason missing most of the game with a leg injury, Whitman never recovered from an early Walter Johnson goal — which came off an indirect kick following a mishap from the freshman keeper — and lost 2-0 to the Bethesda school.
“I was pretty angry. You play the entire season just to see it crumble and disappear,” Atkinson said.
Atkinson will be back in goal while Mason, who missed time with a concussion and knee pain (Osgood-Schlatter disease), has also recovered. But to come out of the competitive 4A West Region, the Vikings will need more than better bounces and a clean bill of health.
Coach David Greene, entering his 36th season, said he is expecting a strong year from Mason, a speedy striker who in abbreviated playing time was still one of the Vikings top contributors.
“If he’s out there for an entire game, he’s pretty dangerous,” Greene said. “… [He’s] very, very fast. He will be the fastest player on the field in any game that we play.”
Greene said Whitman is one of about nine teams in the county that has state championship potential.
“We almost consider our region [4A West] a state championship in itself,” Greene said. “... If you could get through the region you could have a fairly good opportunity to win the whole thing.”
The Vikings finished 8-8-1, defeating John F. Kennedy (Silver Spring) and Richard Montgomery (Rockville) in the postseason before losing to Walter Johnson.
“We all saw it last year and we don’t want it to be like that this year,” Mason said.
Kert Mease is entering his 17th season as coach of Germantown’s Northwest, and never before, he said, has he seen a Montgomery County soccer season like the one last year.
James H. Blake won the 4A North Region, reaching the state finals for the first time in the Silver Spring school’s history, while Derwood’s Col. Zadok Magruder — a year removed from a 3-12 season — came out of the 4A West by winning all of its regional playoff games by one goal and knocking off the defending state champions, Thomas S. Wootton (Rockville).
Coaches across the county said they expect another wide open season. Magruder and Blake were among the contenders mentioned, but the only consensus was that the gap between the top and bottom teams is shrinking, and that there was no definitive favorite.
“It’s parity, I guess. We’re like the NFL,” Mease said.