Junior midfielder Matt McDonnell and the Wootton boys’ soccer team advanced to the state final four with a 1-0 overtime victory against Walter Johnson on Nov. 5.
Photo by Harvey Levine
Wootton boys’ soccer coach Doug Schuessler wasn’t sure which Patriot put the ball in the net during overtime on a cold night at Walter Johnson High School. But as his players burst into jubilation around him, any focus on the process quickly turned to the emotion surrounding the result.
With Wootton and Walter Johnson locked in a scoreless tie in overtime of Monday’s 4A West final, Patriots senior Spiros Tsakos sent in a free kick and senior Danny O’Neil headed the ball into the net, giving Wootton a 1-0 victory and a region championship.
"I saw the ball in, I thought I saw a little flick and then I saw the net move and I saw players erupt," Schuessler said. "Truthfully, that’s all that mattered."
The Patriots advance to the state final four for the first time since 1990, Schuessler said, and will face Perry Hall, the 4A North champion, on Saturday, Nov. 10 at Richard Montgomery High School.
"Ever since the beginning, we’ve been telling ourselves this is the year," Tsakos said. "We haven’t had it in so long. This [was] one of the most important games in Wootton soccer history."
O’Neil said Tsakos and he have been working on the game-winning play for a while.
"[We] just try to get that ball near post and [Tsakos has] been trying to get it on my head [for] a nice re-direction," O’Neil said. "Every time, it has gone right over my head. That little skimp, I guess I must have re-directed it. I don’t know if it was going to go in anyway, but I’ll take credit for the goal."
Both teams entered the contest with only one loss. WJ, the region’s No. 1 seed, defeated Wootton, the No. 2 seed, during the regular season. This time, it was a different story. The Patriots failed to capitalize on their scoring opportunities in regulation, but took care of business in overtime.
"They’re not going to the final four; they’re winning a state title — that’s their mindset at this point. It is one game at a time, but the goal is to win it all, not to win the region title. This was just a necessary step on the way."
— Wootton boys’ soccer coach Doug Schuessler
"This [region final location] was set in the beginning and [WJ] made it all the way here," O’Neil said. "They thought with the home advantage they could take us out again. We just wanted it more. We came out in overtime and we had more energy than them."
Now the Patriots have to maintain their winning ways at the state tournament.
"As they’re all coming off after the initial euphoria, all you hear is guys saying we’re not done yet, we’re not done yet," Schuessler said. "They’re not going to the final four; they’re winning a state title — that’s their mindset at this point. It is one game at a time, but the goal is to win it all, not to win the region title. This was just a necessary step on the way."