BETHESDA — Several lacrosse sticks were thrown high up into the air as the buzzer signaled the end of the game. The Walter Johnson Wildcats varsity girls lacrosse team had just held on against a second half Churchill surge to beat the visiting Bulldogs 10-8 Friday in the 4A West Section 1 semifinals.
It was the second time this season that the Wildcats had hosted the Bulldogs, and both times the Wildcats escaped with a narrow victory. This time, however, it was Churchill that came from behind to score four unanswered goals to tie the game.
Churchill junior attacker Elizabeth Hsu earned three of her game-high five goals in the first half. In fact, she was the only Bulldog to score at all in the first period.
Meanwhile, the Wildcats were on a roll as six different players got the ball past Churchill’s goalie to give Walter Johnson a comfortable 7-3 lead going into the half.
The tides turned when Hsu opened the second half with an early goal that kickstarted Churchill’s comeback. The Wildcat offense that had been so successful in the first half was nowhere to be found as the Bulldogs scored three times in two minutes to tie the game.
Walter Johnson senior captain Ashley Kate Smith made sure that the Bulldogs never took the lead as she answered Hsu’s game-tying score with one of her own to put the Wildcats back in the lead. Smith finished the evening with a team-high four goals.
The Churchill defense had clearly done its homework on Wildcats junior attacker Sierra Agarwal, double-teaming the Harvard commit for most of the game. However, the tenacious Agarwal pushed through the Bulldog defenders again and again as she drove toward the net.
Churchill sophomore Leah Rubino tossed in her second goal of the night with just over three minutes left to play to pull the Bulldogs within two. A pair of timely saves by freshman goalie Emma Richardell kept Churchill from tying the game again and soon time ran out on the Bulldogs’ postseason hopes.
The Churchill sidelines were a somber sight to behold after the game as several players tearfully embraced. Head coach Jamie Frank said that even though some calls in the game didn’t go Churchill’s way, she was still proud of the teamwork her players exhibited.
“We just had a really good group of girls. They all work together and there’s no one superstar,” she said. “They really care about each other and they want each other to succeed; that was nice to see.”
Meanwhile, the victory lifted Walter Johnson to a 13-1 record, a marked improvement over a losing record in 2016 and breaking even at 6-6 in 2017. Agarwal attributes this to her team’s chemistry and motivation to win.
“We’re just playing amazing and it’s just so nice in these neck-and-neck games to come out with a win,” she said. “The pace of our game, our transitions, we can just hit those passes and we know how to put it in the net when we need it. The connection our team has, the chemistry we have on the field, I love it.”
That chemistry will be tested when the Wildcats clash with Whitman (12-1) on Monday. Walter Johnson’s sole loss this season came against the Vikings at Whitman in early April with a final score of 12-7.
Wildcats head coach Gary Reburn took responsibility for his team’s only loss.
“We will be much better prepared for Whitman. [In the first game] we didn’t have the best game plan for them,” said Reburn. “It was early in the season, so we’re going to be a much better prepared team for them. And coming off of this win, this is the best practice we can have.”