T.C. Williams girls’ soccer falls in state semifinals

T.C. Williams girls’ soccer falls in state semifinals

By Chris Teale (Photo/Chris Teale)

Despite enjoying the majority of possession and creating a litany of chances in both halves, the T.C. Williams girls’ soccer team came up just short in its first ever state semifinal last Friday at hosts Robinson Secondary School and lost 1-0 to Frank W. Cox High School.

In one of her team’s relatively rare forays forward, Falcons senior forward Alex Davidson headed home a corner at the near post with just under 10 minutes remaining in the first half. The goal and the defense’s continued vigilance delivered Cox to the final of the Virginia High School League’s 6A tournament, and meant T.C.’s sea- son was over. Its final overall record stands at 19-4.

The Titans were left to ponder an offense that caused numerous problems for their opponents and had opportunities throughout, but could not put the ball in the net. The team’s final chance was one of its best, as sophomore forward Claire Constant was brought down in the penalty area by Cox sophomore goalkeeper Maddie Arndt, conceding a penalty with just over three minutes left.

T.C. senior defender Philomena Fitzgerald hit her penalty towards the bottom right corner, but Arndt guessed right after picking herself up from her previous foul. She flung herself in that direction and palmed the ball away to safety to preserve her side’s advantage.

“[Arndt] lives for penalty kicks and I know that, and I felt comfortable with her in that position,” said Cox head coach Michele Clark. “She actually won a penalty shootout on this field last year as a freshman, so this is her field for penalties.”

In the first half, T.C. rained shots on the Cox goal and stretched their opponents’ defense almost to the breaking point. Junior forward Kaily Kocot drifted to the right wing and sent in a low cross that fellow forward Caroline Bates put just wide at the near post, then Fitzgerald saw a low cross cause chaos in the Cox area and only barely be scrambled away.

Constant then carved out two good opportunities for herself after being played in over the top of the back line, but both times, she sent her shots wide of the far post. Arndt tipped a shot from Ava Hanson wide, then made three successive saves late in the period as she deflected a Zoe Boocock shot onto the post, then blocked consecutive follow-up shots from Bates and Hanson. That passage came with Cox 1-0 up, and with just four minutes remaining before halftime.

“I think we started strong,” said senior T.C. defender Hannah Bates. “I think the most frustrating piece is the amount of open opportunities we had. The ball bounced around a lot at the back post and we didn’t take advantage of those. … We just didn’t capitalize, which is upsetting.”

Cox saw more of the ball in the second half, but the defense was largely content to clear their lines rather than push forward in search of a second goal. With just over 20 minutes remaining, Boocock sent in a corner and found Hannah Bates at the back post, but she sent her first-time shot over the bar.

Constant saw a shot from outside the penalty area go just over the goal, while there were a number of good crosses played in but none found a player in the box to apply the finish. Fitzgerald’s missed penalty was the Titans’ last chance, and they could not find the net.

Despite her team’s inability to score, Titans head coach Ally Wagner was proud of her players’ effort.

“I thought our girls played fantastically, we just couldn’t find the back of the net,” she said. “It was very unfortunate that way. But they battled from the first moment of the game, I couldn’t be more proud of them, they did such a good job.”

The loss caps a strong season for T.C., which reached the final of the 6A North regional tournament, where it lost 2-0 away against Battlefield. That game came after wins in the regional tournament over Chantilly, Patriot and Oakton and a first ever Patriot conference title.

“Obviously this specific game is very disappointing,” said Hannah Bates. “It’s crushing to lose to a team when you played so well, there were so many chances. But overall this has been the best season of T.C. soccer I’ve ever played.

“No one ever dreamed we would come to the state semifinal, but I just think that we had a great group of girls and everyone gave it their all. The result is disappointing, but I’m so proud of them.”

With 11 seniors graduating from this year’s roster, there will be a great deal of turnover next season as the Titans look to match their feats from 2015. But Wagner said with a number of younger players returning next season, there is plenty of optimism for the future.

“I think this year was a good example of what we’re capable of,” she said. “We have a lot of really young, really strong players on our team who have made a huge impact this year. I think it’s going to be hard losing all 11 seniors, but I think we’ll bounce back. They’ve definitely laid a pretty good foundation for us.”