GDS’ women’s varsity soccer team defeated St. Andrew’s, 2–1, on Thursday, Oct. 20, clinching victory of the Independent School League (ISL) A Division for the regular season. The team, which went 6–0 in the division this season, had been relegated to the ISL’s lower division after a rough 2021 season, in which they finished last in the higher AA Division. According to the ISL’s rules, the team will move back into the AA Division for the 2023 season after winning the A Division this year.
If St. Andrew’s, who finished second in the division, had defeated GDS, the two teams would have been tied for first, each with a 4–1 record. GDS’ defeat of St. Andrew’s put the Hoppers two games ahead, meaning they would win the A division regardless of the outcome of their final regular-season game, against Bullis on Wednesday, Oct. 26. GDS beat Bullis, 1–0.
In the 2021 season, the team went 0–6–1 against other ISL teams, earning them last place in the upper division, tied with National Cathedral School, which remained in the AA Division for the 2022 season after winning a coin flip. Reflecting on the previous season, senior Mackenzie Williams, the team’s manager for both seasons, explained, “We didn’t take advantage of the games we should have won.”
The team has worked hard to learn from last season, according to Williams. “At the end of last season we moved down, but that just motivated us to do better this following year and bring a banner to GDS,” she said.
Per ISL rules, if a division-winning team also wins the playoffs, then they are the sole champion. If a different team wins the playoffs, the teams are declared co-champions and both receive banners.
The St. Andrew’s game was an especially exciting one for the team. The teams were tied 1–1 for much of the game, with GDS’ goal coming from sophomore Jessica Berger. A late goal by senior Dionne Harris secured a 2–1 win for the Hoppers and gave them the banner they had been chasing all season.
Harris, who has been one of the team’s best scorers this season, said that scoring the goal and winning the game felt magical. “When you score the winning goal, and everyone is cheering, and you’re hugging people, it literally feels like what high school is,” she said. For Harris, a playoff win in her senior season would be extremely special. “To leave that legacy, and to leave that strongly, on a good note, would be really, really liberating.”
When asked about what the team can do to succeed in the playoffs, Colleen Redmond, an assistant coach, stressed the importance of entering each game with “a clean slate.”
Senior Alana Goldstock, one of the captains, echoed the sentiment. “We can’t go in with any pre-ideas of what the team is going to be or how the game is going to go,” Goldstock said. “Just go in with confidence and think you are going to win.”
The team has made changes in the way they play from last season. According to Williams, the team switched its on-field formation to a 3–5–2, meaning they played with three defenders, five midfielders and two forwards. The three central midfielders have played a big part in the new strategy, as they’ve learned to work together well, several players told the Bit.
One of the factors that have been crucial to the team’s success this year, they said, has been their mindset. “The atmosphere around the team is just a little bit more positive and a little bit more fun,” head coach Katie Redmond, Colleen’s sister, said.
Williams said that everyone on the team has each other’s back, and feels “supported by their teammates.” That sense of camaraderie has been achieved through playing together, but also through various bonding activities like team dinners organized by Williams and the team captains, Goldstock and fellow seniors Keevan Kearns and Maya Ryu.
“Now that we have a bond with each other, I think it will be easier for us going up next year,” sophomore Cheyenne Freeman said. “I think teamwork is really a big part of the team, which I think was part of the disconnect last year.”
On Wednesday, Nov. 2, the team is scheduled to play its first playoff game, which will be in the semifinal round of the tournament, because, as the division winner, GDS receives a bye for the quarterfinals. In past years, the number one seed has played the winner of a quarter-final game between the fourth and fifth seed teams, meaning GDS would play either Episcopal or Flint Hill.