The Thomas S. Wootton High School boys soccer team had to reinvent itself and become a defensive-minded squad after registering a record-breaking 64 goals and winning the Class 4A state championship in 2012. Not that the Patriots of Rockville, who lost leading scorer Matt Hoy (26 goals) to graduation (Class of 2013), had much of a choice.
But the plan did work, to an extent. Wootton went 7-6-3 and reached the third round of the playoffs, regularly shutting down — and in four instances, shutting out — its opponents.
“We were a good team that had to stay incredibly organized and fight like hell,” Wootton coach Doug Schuessler said.
Wootton heads into this season with a similar defensive-oriented plan, but this time around it is looking to get a little more help from the offense, which managed only 21 goals last season. The Patriots — whose six losses each came by a one-goal margin — will have another year of experience under their belts, providing continuity they lacked a year ago.
“I have no problem with being involved in a lot of one-goal games and I think we’ll win more than our fair share of [them],” Schuessler said.
Senior Richard Hum said that he has seen growth in the team, particularly in the midfield, where he plays. Joining Hum will be Cristobal Corvalan, a “creative, dangerous,” midfielder.
Schuessler said he expects Erik Gunnarsson to anchor the defense, which allowed only 15 total goals last season.
“We definitely did take steps forward in developing as a team and developing young players for this year,” Hum said.
“... I think we can get back to that level. We have some good developed underclassmen who are now juniors this year and we can definitely have more of a scoring mentality.”
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 Wootton, the defending state champions,
“It’s parity, I guess. We’re like the NFL,” Mease said.
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.
David Greene, entering his 36th season as coach of Bethesda’s Walt Whitman, said that about nine teams in the county — including his own — have state championship potential.
“We almost consider our region [4A West] a state championship in itself,” said Greene, whose Vikings lost to Walter Johnson (Bethesda) in the region semifinals. “... If you could get through the region you could have a fairly good opportunity to win the whole thing.”
In the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference, Olney’s Our Lady of Good Counsel is coming off a 10-4-3 season and returns six starters. Look for junior Dominic Duncan, who scored nine goals in 2013, to help lead the offense. Sophomore Billy Bridgegum will start in goal for the second straight season after recording 65-plus saves his freshman year, according to third-year coach Dylan Dempsey.
“[The] Falcons will be an extremely talented, but very young team,” Dempsey said.