If you look closely, Westfield’s girls soccer team looks a lot like its wrestling team these days. It’s not because one of the girls’ assistant coaches, Derek Donahue, also happens to coach the school’s wrestlers, nor is it related to any physical resemblance to their burly male counterparts. It’s just that the Lady Bulldogs have long been tangling with a monkey on their back, one that finally seems on the brink of being pinned for good.
Despite winning seasons in four of the last five years, the girls soccer squad is one of just a few Westfield varsity programs (the others being boys lacrosse, boys and girls tennis and gymnastics) not to have won a Concorde District championship. That inglorious distinction could well be banished this spring, as the girls have stormed to a promising 9-0 record that marks the best start in program history.
The Bulldogs’ unblemished record - which has earned them a No. 2 ranking by The Washington Post - hints at a level of dominance that has seen them barrel over everyone in their path. But that simply hasn’t been the case - five of their wins have come by a one-goal margin, some of which have featured late second half comebacks.
To Westfield coaches, those type of results indicate a positive development that could toughen their players’ resolve heading into the playoffs.
“That’s just a credit to the kids,” Westfield coach Kristi Williams said. “There’s just this ‘Never say die’ attitude. They just fight ‘til the end, and there’s a couple games where they scored the winning goal in the last couple minutes. I think those are the kind of things that help you in the postseason, especially in the Concorde.”
Their wins haven’t exactly come against cupcake opponents, either. On top of handing Woodbridge and Battlefield their lone losses of the season so far, Westfield has taken down area powers Robinson, Centreville and Langley.
Perhaps their biggest test of the season looms Thursday with a showdown against defending district champion Chantilly. The Chargers (7-2-1, 3-0 Concorde) - who have amassed a staggering 41 goals this season - will come to Westfield with an undefeated district record of their own, setting up a rivalry game that could determine the balance of power in the Concorde.
“Certainly we’d like to keep winning, but there’s a lot of soccer left to be played,” Williams said. “We have a big target on our back with not even having tied a game. Obviously we’re preparing to win the game, but anything can happen in a soccer game. So whatever the result is, we’ll just have to use that and learn from it for the future.”
Westfield players say they’re especially fired up for the game given the teams’ recent history, which has seen Chantilly win five out of the last six meetings against its crosstown foe. The latest came in a 4-1 romp in last year’s district semifinal, a defeat that pushed Westfield’s championship drought another year.
The Bulldogs feel they have the tools necessary to end the drought this spring. Their 3-5-2 formation is held up in the back by Kaylee Hohein - who will play at Kentucky next year - and Meghan DiPippa, who is committed to Saint Joseph’s (Pa.) University. Their composure on defense complements two other senior captains in the midfield: Carolyn Seltzer - a Delaware recruit - and Bianca Blazquez, who has four goals and an assist so far this year.
Junior forward Brittany Fary has continued her scoring prowess this year, leading the Bulldogs with 10 goals heading into the Chantilly game. She has been aided this season by the arrival of her sister, freshman forward Alicia Fary, who has notched three goals of her own. Freshman midfielder Emma Kershner’s team-leading four assists has further added to a Westfield side that is finding the net with far greater ease than it did last season. Through eight games, the Bulldogs had 21 goals, nine more than they had at that juncture last year.
“Last year we didn’t really score on a lot of our opportunities, and this year we’re taking advantage of our opportunities,” Hohein said. “Our team has a lot of chemistry on the field. It’s just something that clicks once we’re together.”
Though that chemistry flows through a core of senior captains that have played together at the club level for years, it also comes from a bond between all classes that has been strengthened with mounting success.
“It’s not just the senior class; it’s all of us,” Blazquez said. “We all work really well together, not just on the field but off the field too. We’re really close.”
Camaraderie has brought the Bulldogs a long way, but it won’t amount to much if the Concorde trophy eludes their grasp again this May. Whether or not history’s discouraging pattern is altered will depend on how well Westfield maintains its cohesion up and down the field.
“I would say that the number one thing is that we’re balanced,” Williams said. “We’re pretty balanced all over the field, and we just have to continue to put together a solid effort, and hopefully the cards will fall in our favor.”