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The Highlander

The Student News Site of McLean High School

The Highlander

The Student News Site of McLean High School

The Highlander

Highlanders take regional title

McLean boys varsity soccer defeats Herndon High School 3-2 to become region champions
McLeans+boys+varsity+soccer+team+poses+with+the+banner+and+trophy+they+received+for+becoming+Northern+Region+champions.+Game-winning+goal+scorer+Luke+Hamel+holds+the+banner+for+his+team.
Matthew Lewyn
McLean’s boys varsity soccer team poses with the banner and trophy they received for becoming Northern Region champions. Game-winning goal scorer Luke Hamel holds the banner for his team.

Although it had been pouring rain all day, by kickoff at the Northern Region soccer championship, the clouds that had seemed oh-so-menacing had cleared. Nerves were high as the Highlanders prepared to face the Hornets, a team they had yet to beat. This time they were ready.

“We just wanted to win, and we were giving it 110%,” junior defender Will Saxon said. “We had a little fire inside us; they beat us four times in a row, and we knew it couldn’t be five.”

The matchup was intense from the kickoff, and physicality was the name of the game as several ugly tackles resulted in loud calls of anger from both sides. After several corner kicks from the Hornets, Herndon finally scored on a set piece, marking a 1-0 lead.

Herndon gained several chances to score from free kicks, but was unable to put one in the goal, and McLean kept on threatening, with dangerous headers keeping the crowd on their toes. A strong pass from junior forward Joe Margita caught the Hornets line off guard, allowing junior forward Ada Karatepe to nearly score, yet a last ditch clearance from Herndon saved the goal.

Karatepe was dominating the right side of the field, but no goals were scored, and at the half, Herndon was still leading 1-0.

“You start at the bottom, and it’s just a constant climb up,” Saxon said. “When we went down 1-0, people’s heads started to drop a little bit, but we got them back up quickly. We knew we weren’t out of this game.”

The Highlanders started the second half strong, determined to pull ahead. Not far into the half, Margita took a shot from far out, which bounced out of the hands of the Herndon keeper and into the goal. McLean gained momentum, and the tension on the field increased as the score was now tied.

Arguments on the field arose, including one between Saxon and a Herndon player. Head coach Leland Jameson interfered, receiving a yellow card. Not long after, McLean received a penalty, and junior goalkeeper Sebastian Carmenates got a yellow card for arguing the call. Senior goalkeeper Connor Patton came in, and Herndon scored their second goal on the penalty kick, heightening the game’s tension.

“This was a dog fight from start to finish, and we knew it was going to be the whole time,” Saxon said. “Encouragement is the biggest thing, and positive reinforcement really goes a long way.”

McLean kept their heads up, and it paid off as an inswinging corner kick by sophomore midfielder Luke Hamel led to a header by senior defender Dante Tosado that sailed past Herndon’s goalkeeper. McLean’s goal made the score 2-2, sending the teams to overtime.

The pressure was on, and stress was high as both sides got ready for overtime. McLean was dangerous, with heavy momentum earning them numerous shots on goal. Tensions between the two teams continued to escalate as Karatepe ran after a bad pass to Herndon’s goalkeeper and was roughly struck by a Herndon player, earning the Hornet a red card. Karatepe missed the free kick, and overtime continued.

Injury is always a factor in contact sports, and junior midfielder Rafael Cabral took the field as senior forward Caf Eaton was taken off with cramps. Eaton recovered enough to go in again, but he was later carried off the field, and sophomore midfielder Charlie Lannin took his place for the remainder of the game.

“A few of the boys were dealing with injuries,” assistant coach Alex MacNabb said. “We’ve been working through that, and everything came together tonight.”

The first overtime ended with an unchanged score, and a second sudden death overtime began, where a single goal would end the game. In this “golden goal” overtime, nerves were high for fans and players alike. A corner kick to a header placed the ball at the feet of Hamel, who sent it straight past Herndon’s goalkeeper for the game-winning goal. For the first time since 1980, the Highlanders were Northern Region champions.

“To me, it was simply just wow. I was stretching [Eaton] on the sideline, and we saw it and immediately jumped up and started running down the sideline,” MacNabb said. “No matter what we’re facing, we focus on what’s in front of [us] and everything takes care of itself.”

The energy from the win is exemplary of the team’s strong bond: the ability to work together, win together and celebrate together.

“Everyone’s got something going on off the field or on the field, and everyone came together tonight,” Saxon said. “They gave it everything they had, and that’s what you love to see from your teammates and your brothers. That’s all you can ask for, really.”

McLean will play again in the first round of states, and the team is confident in their odds.

“We knew we could win. The season has gone pretty well, and Herndon was the only team who had beaten us,” junior defender Titus Powars said. “This shows that, realistically, we can beat anyone. The job is not finished.”

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