Women’s Soccer Moves to Final After Physical Game Against Flint Hill

Junior Lina Fawaz scored two goals in the semifinal match against Flint Hill. Photos by Shaila Joshi.

GDS’ women’s varsity soccer team advanced to the Independent School League (ISL) A Division championship match after defeating Flint Hill, 2–1, at home on Wednesday afternoon. The Hoppers beat Flint Hill in their previous matchup on Sept. 21.

GDS will play Episcopal in the final of the lower-division tournament on Friday at 3 p.m. at Potomac. GDS won the division in the regular season, so if it wins the championship, it will be the only team in the division to receive a banner.

The semifinal game, which was the team’s senior night, was an eventful one from the beginning. GDS had a strong start, with four attempts on goal that Flint Hill saved in the first five minutes. The ball remained on Flint Hill’s half of the field in the early part of the game, and the GDS goalie first touched the ball in the 12th minute. 

In the 16th minute, junior Lina Fawaz received the ball and shot it just past the Flint Hill goalie, giving GDS a one-point lead. The score remained 1–0 until halftime.

Just 30 seconds after the second-half kickoff, Fawaz scored again, assisted by senior Dionne Harris. “It’s always a team effort, but it always feels good to score some goals,” Fawaz said in an interview after the game. “But I’m just happy that we’re continuing.”

Harris, who had multiple close misses in the first half, scored the winning goal in the team’s game against St. Andrew’s on Oct. 20, which won GDS the division and sent the team to Wednesday’s semifinal match with a first-round playoff bye. 

About five minutes into the second half, GDS received an indirect free kick in the penalty box, in which a player may not shoot the ball directly to the goal. But the shot that sophomore Mara Grace took after receiving a pass was blocked by Flint Hill’s defense. Aggression between the teams, which had already been high throughout the game, picked up after the kick, with Grace receiving a yellow card for grabbing her opponent’s shirt. (A yellow card is a warning given to players who commit more serious fouls. Two yellow cards for a player lead to an ejection.)

This hostility continued for the rest of the match, with multiple free kicks awarded to players from both sides. At one point, a Flint Hill player pushed sophomore Jaya Newingham out of bounds, outraging the rowdy GDS fan section. The fans held a grudge against the Flint Hill player and heckled her until the end of the match, sometimes booing when she was rough to GDS players.

No more goals were scored until, in the game’s final five minutes, a foul by Newingham resulted in Flint Hill receiving a penalty kick, which they scored to bring the game to 2–1. The foul was a point of disagreement between delighted Flint Hill parents and GDS fans who thought the kick was not warranted.

GDS hung onto its lead until the end of the game despite multiple attempts by Flint Hill to score. After the final whistle blew, GDS fans erupted onto the field to congratulate their classmates on the victory.

The fan section had been excited all game, with lively cheers erupting from the stands whenever the ball was in the Hoppers’ possession. The bleachers were filled with students and parents alike, and some ended up having to fill in around the sidelines to see. 

When reflecting on the game, senior Maya Ryu, a captain of the team, said in an interview after the game that she thought it was not officiated fairly, which several other players agreed with. She said that Flint Hill’s overly aggressive playing style was frustrating, but that the important thing was to “just play our game, and not bow down to their level.” 

Senior Keevan Kearns, another captain of the team (and a Bit reporter), agreed with Ryu and told the Bit that she refuses to retaliate physically against teams that she thinks are playing too rough. She explained that she relies on the referees to call a fair match, and doesn’t want to take matters into her own hands.

Haze McCrary, one of GDS’ assistant coaches, told the Bit that he talked to the team about how to handle Flint Hill’s physicality. “A big part of the talk at half-time was that we are a better soccer team, and to react in a controlled manner,” McCrary said. “Keep the ball, keep your head, stay calm, as opposed to trying to get retaliatory.”

Assistant coach Colleen Redmond told the Bit, “I think a really important part of the game of soccer is showing your passion for the game in your play and not your words and actions.”

The team will be playing second-seeded Episcopal in the championship game. GDS previously defeated Episcopal 3–2 on Sept. 22, and, if they win again on Friday, will bring home the ISL A Division banner.