BALTIMORE — For the past two weeks, as Thomas Johnson’s girls soccer team generated a surge the team hadn’t seen in 17 years, Patriots girls soccer coach Adam Weinstein may have been sounding like a broken record before and after games.
And even after Northern-Calvert beat TJ 4-1 in Saturday’s Class 3A West state final at Loyola University’s Ridley Athletic Complex, Weinstein delivered the same message to his players.
“I think the most important thing from today, and I told the girls this right after the game, I told them before the game, I’ve been telling them for a couple weeks now of how proud I am of everything we have accomplished thus far,” Weinstein said in a postgame press conference.
That’s because Weinstein oversaw a team that hadn’t gained any sort of traction midway through the season and hadn’t established an identity. TJ found itself hovering around .500 for much of the season.
“In the beginning of the year, we had ups and downs,” Weinstein said. “We were really trying to figure out who we were.”
The source of Weinstein’s pride, he said, derives from the fact that his players had more to do with the team’s most memorable season since TJ won a state title in 2001.
“I stopped leading and let them take the reins,” Weinstein said.
It appeared TJ (9-5-2) might duplicate the 2001 team’s accomplishment in the 37th minute, when Sara Hohn sent a cross into the box that bounced off a Northern defender’s legs and right to Genesis Guevara, who took a step to her right before scoring from 10 yards out.
But Northern (16-2-1) answered in the 48th minute as Rachel Deresky, who has already committed to Vanderbilt despite being just a sophomore, put home a rebound on a close-range shot to tie the match.
Starting with Deresky’s goal, TJ goalie Alayna Burgamy was under siege for the next 20 minutes, with the trio of Deresky, Madi Neall and Sarah Eliff consistently making strong runs toward the goal. Northern peppered Burgamy with 17 shots in the second half alone and 22 for the match. TJ managed just one in the second half and three for the contest.
On a ball served into the box from the right side, Neall gave Northern the lead for the good in the 56th minute, settling the ball in the middle of the box before pumping in a shot inside the right post. Two minutes later, Deresky sped down the right side before delivering a perfect pass across the goal mouth, and Eliff one-timed a shot in from the doorstep.
“I’d say that they were probably the best offense that we faced this year,” Hohn said.
After the match, the TJ players on the field, along with the reserves, made a beeline toward Burgamy, who made seven of her nine saves in the second half, and huddled around her.
“We’ll be back next year,” Burgamy said.
All of the TJ players who attended Saturday’s press conference said a section final win over Linganore — the team that knocked TJ out of the playoffs last year in addition to recording a 1-0 win in the regular season this year — provided the springboard for its run.
“That was definitely a statement win for us, that we were the team that could beat [last year’s 3A state champ],” junior Elaina Kluttz said.
A bitter end to the season didn’t put a damper on what TJ had done before reaching Loyola University.
“I’m just really proud of our season,” Hohn said. “Nobody should be down on ourselves. We all played amazing, and we had a great season.”
“This is the greatest group of girls that we’ve ever had,” TJ’s Megan Wilson quickly added. “We’re such a family, and it was such a joy to play with them for such a long season.”