Girls soccer was back to win big.
After a heartbreaking state championship defeat in 2018, a disappointing playoff performance in 2019 and a canceled 2020 campaign, it was championship-or-bust heading into 2021.
And they didn’t just win big. They won the whole damn thing.
After going 11–2–1 in the regular season and securing a top three seed in the playoffs, the Vikes rolled through Churchill, Walter Johnson, Wootton, Parkdale and Sherwood before defeating previously undefeated Broadneck 2–1 in the state championship game. It marked the girls’ fourth state championship and first since 2014.
“Being able to lift that trophy up was unbelievable,” senior captain Delaney DeMartino said. “I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy.”
Despite a few setbacks, the Vikes steamrolled their competition in both the regular season and the playoffs. In 18 total games, they outscored their opponents 91–7.
91–7. That is not a typo.
In addition to averaging over five goals per game, the Vikes tallied at least seven goals in seven different games and, in the playoffs, outscored their opponents 30–2. It was total domination from a squad that was absolutely loaded on both offense and defense.
Even early on, it was evident that the Vikes had the personnel to go all the way. At tryouts back in August, the team realized just how much potential they had, senior captain Grace Li said.
“The talent on the team was so clear,” Li said. “We knew if we were able to pull it all together, we would be the best team in the state.”
On offense, the Vikes sported a nearly unstoppable collection of forwards and midfielders. The dynamic starting front three — Gemma Davitian, Riley and Delaney DeMartino — led Whitman’s ferocious offensive attack all season long. Their skill and chemistry in the final third often overwhelmed teams and was the driving force behind the Vikes’ ludicrous +84 goal differential.
“Riley, Delaney and Gemma are probably the best line in the entire state,” senior center forward Claire Lane said. “Their speed, technical ability and their ability to finish in front of the goal is unmatched.”
Like any championship team, there was plenty of adversity the Vikes had to overcome throughout the season, with the most prevalent being injuries. The Vikes lost several key players to injuries prior to the playoffs — including Li, their starting center back, in late September.
But the Vikes remained stout defensively: despite initial unsteadiness due to Li’s absence, they were able to adapt as the season progressed. Led by senior Ava James at outside back and junior Charlotte Shapiro at center back, the Vikes defense constantly stood tall and contributed to the many strengths that carried this squad to the state title.
“[Charlotte] was so good at communicating with everyone. She was really good at taking charge and making sure that everyone knew where they needed to be and what they needed to do,” Lane said. “Ava’s an absolute tank. That mentally messed with the other teams knowing that the back line was such a brick wall.”
For freshman Evelyn Javers, there was an added layer of responsibility. After sophomore midfielder Kate Stricker suffered a foot injury in late October, Javers was elevated into a starting midfield role despite only playing outside back for most of the season. She was nervous at first, she said, but gained confidence throughout the season, and, in a testament to the versatility of the squad, ended the season with a goal in the state championship game.
“We were such a dangerous offensive team, it was impossible to prepare for us,” head coach Greg Herbert said. “It gave opportunities to people like Evelyn, who, I don’t think that teams knew how fast and quick Evelyn was in the midfield. To have these players step in and contribute so positively was integral to team success.”
Freshman center back Sascha Beasley and sophomore outside back Louisa Ralston — along with junior goalkeeper Sophia Mays — were also inserted into the starting lineup when the injury bug continued to bite the Vikes. Even though it was late in the season, the players were all incredibly talented, Herbert said, so it wasn’t a risk to change the lineup so close to the playoffs.
The Vikes were not only tested in terms of depth, but performance too. While they walloped most of their opponents, there were a few losses and close calls throughout the season, with one of them being a disappointing 1–0 defeat at the hands of Walter Johnson on October 7. The game proved to be a turning point in the season; the Vikes bulldozed through their next four opponents by a combined score of 24–1 and didn’t lose a single game the rest of the way.
“We needed that loss,” sophomore center forward Sheridan Snow said. “That showed us that we weren’t going to win every game, and that made us want to work harder to come back from that.”
The Vikes didn’t play in another game decided by one goal until the regional final against Wootton on November 2. The game was deadlocked at zero throughout the entire first half and most of the second half until Davitian scored the winner with under two minutes remaining.
It was by far Whitman’s closest call of the playoffs. Looking back on the game, Lane said, the Vikes simply weren’t going to accept elimination that early.
“Everyone was so motivated going into that game because we had lost to them in the regular season,” Beasley said. “No one gave up until the buzzer sounded.”
On the pitch, the Vikes commanded with 11 studs and a mile-deep bench. But the fans — often referred to as the “twelfth man” when margins are particularly tight — played a huge role in the team’s success, especially in the playoffs, Davitian said.
“When we won that WJ [playoff] game, we came together after the game, and we were like ‘There’s no way we could’ve done that without the fans’,” DeMartino said. “They’ve been a really big part of this, and we thank them a lot for coming out.”
Another vital element of Whitman’s success was the team’s ultra-strong chemistry. Along with normal everyday practices returning post-COVID, team breakfasts, dinners and other get togethers off the field played a huge part in bringing the team closer together. The team’s togetherness that was built throughout the season immensely improved the team’s performance on the field, Lane said.
“We just always wanted to be around each other,” Lane said. “There were moments where we looked around and realized that we were really coming together as a team and just enjoying each other’s presence.”
For the seniors, the victory at Loyola was the ultimate redemption. The five players who played on the 2018 squad that came up just short in the state championship were able to reach the top of the mountain three years later.
“I think the biggest thing that motivated us was just remembering how terrible it was to lose,” Lane said. “I was so glad we won because everyone on that team deserved to win that trophy.”
All in all, it was a storybook ending for a team plagued by injury — a team that showed immense resilience while still dominating en route to a number one ranking in the state of Maryland by the Washington Post. It was truly a fusion of talent, chemistry, hard work and perseverance that lifted the Vikes to their first state championship in over half a decade.
“I remember at the beginning of the season, we all had to write our goals for the season down, and everybody wrote for the team goal to win states,” Snow said. “To see that actually happen was just such a beautiful moment.”
Claire Lane is a news editor for The Black & White.