UPPER MARLBORO – All game long, Alaina Martin was unsure if she was ever going score. After several opportunities slipped by her and the rest of the Bowie High School girls soccer team, they were only up 1-0 with their opponents, Dr. Henry A. Wise Jr. High School, advancing towards their goal.
With seconds remaining and the Lady Bulldogs regaining position, Martin received a pass from midfielder Cynthia Peral and punched in a 30-yard levitating volley shot over the Wise defense. The ball slipped off the fingers of goalkeeper Tatiana Elliott and bounced into the net as time expired.
“I had to take a chance because it was only 1-0 so I wanted to take a shot,” the junior midfielder said.
Martin’s last-second tally solidified a much-needed 2-0 road victory for Bowie over the Lady Pumas on Sept. 27.
It has been a roller coaster season so far for the Lady Bulldogs (4-3). After defeating North Point 5-0 in their season opener, Bowie lost back-to-back games at rivals Eleanor Roosevelt and against Chesapeake 4-0 on Sept. 15. Despite having six seniors on the roster, Bowie is going through a rebuild, a strange position for one of the county’s traditional girls soccer powers.
“Two years ago, we lost eight seniors and last year, we lost our leading goal scorer,” Captain and senior midfielder Lola Adetola said. “It is definitely different and we are rebuilding but we will get there as a team. We have all the players we need so we just need time and patience and we will get there.”
Despite heading into the Wise match-up with two wins in the past three games, key players, including senior Cassandra-Joy Ekwego and sophomore Samantha Dominguez, were out with injuries while Head Coach Vincent Stewart was serving a red-card suspension. Bowie showed their offensive capabilities early on against Wise (1-3-1) by holding the majority of the ball possession and taking eight first half shots, five of which were on target.
However, the Lady Bulldogs’ attacks did not lead to goals thanks to Elliott, Wise’s backup goalkeeper. Playing the position for the first time this season, the sophomore made key stops, finishing the game with 12 saves to keep Wise in the match.
“I believe I did pretty good but there were somethings I could have done differently, different strategies to stop them from scoring,” Elliott said. “However, I thought I did well in this game.”
“I was very impressed because she had very few mistakes,” Wise Head Coach Morrell Virgo said. “… She was moving around the box well and she got the ball early to protect her goal; she played well.”
It was not until the 37th minute into the contest that Bowie finally scored after Adetola’s curling right-footed shot off a loose-ball rebound beat an outstretched Elliott for the game’s first goal.
Bowie’s dominating possession continued into the second half with quick one-touch passing. Adetola provided a fast pass for a set-up play for junior midfielder Victoria Ajegwu to take a right-footed one-time against Elliot. However, Elliott came up with her 10th save of the game, grabbing into the ball as she dove to the ground.
“We were just lacking that ability to just attack, taking shots from outside (the penalty area) and being be fearless and just going for goal,” Adetola said.
Wise attempted to create buildup play through the team’s leading scorer Amaya Labella and striker Marie Fletcher. However, the Lady Pumas attacks were ended quickly and without any substitutions available on the bench, Wise finished the game not sending in a shot while Bowie registered 15 attempts on goal.
One of Wise’s last offensive threats ended in midfield, setting up a Bowie counterattack for Martin’s goal, giving Bowie a sign of relief with a confirmed victory.
“We have a lot of injuries under us right now and our main striker is out,” Adetola said “We have been dealing with a lot of obstacles but coming out with a win is the most important thing for us; we did well and carried ourselves well in the field.”
With five more games remaining in their schedule before the state playoffs, Bowie will look to use the experience playing a cagey Wise as a valuable lesson. Martin said making more meaningful plays, like connecting passes for on-goal opportunities, need to improve in order for the Lady Bulldogs to continue its progression through this rebuilding year.
“We can do so much better than what we are doing but we are still good and I am helping out a lot with that,” Martin said. “… I expect for us to win because I know we can win as a team.”