Walter Johnson Girls Soccer Wins First State Title
Wisconsin recruit Cammie Murtha scored in overtime of 3-2 victory
Walter Johnson girls soccer team
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Senior Cammie Murtha’s game-winning goal in overtime to clinch Friday’s 3-2 victory over Baltimore County’s Perry Hall and the Walter Johnson High School girls soccer team’s first-ever state title was quite an appropriate ending to this fall’s historic championship run and the University of Wisconsin recruit’s prolific high school tenure.
For the fourth consecutive game, the 2016 Maryland Player of the Year virtually willed herself to score the go-ahead goal—the Wildcats trailed in each of their two previous playoff games. CJ Maloney, a junior and Walter Johnson’s second leading scorer, scored both of the team’s goals in regulation.
The Wildcats’ four-year leading scorer, Murtha finished with 30 goals this season in addition to 24 assists. She threatened the program’s all-time scoring record and crushed the record for all-time assists.
Friday’s achievement was one Murtha and Walter Johnson had been inching closer to each of the past four years. Eighth-year Wildcats coach Liz Robinson, who was a defender on the Thomas S. Wootton team that won states in 1998, the first year Montgomery County competed in the fall and was eligible to participate in the season-ending championship, said this feat came with more of a “proud mama” feeling.
“Perry Hall had never won a state title either, so we were both out there battling for a first,” Robinson said. “It’s truly a phenomenal feeling. These girls get to say forever that they played on the first team that won a state championship for WJ. It’s marked now in history.”
It’s been impossible over the past four years to watch the Wildcats and not notice Murtha.
She’s flashy but smart. Her tremendous speed, skill on the ball and ability to maneuver her way through a sea of defenders inevitably drew much deserved attention whenever she was on the field.
But Walter Johnson was able to reach a new level of success this fall thanks to a more united and versatile squad than years past, Robinson said. While Murtha is a game changer—and her ability to shift the course of a game instilled confidence among her teammates in any game situation—there were plenty of integral playmakers whose work flew under the radar, but who played a major role in the Wildcats’ postseason run. Those players include four-year varsity midfielder Isabel Jabara.
The 5-foot-1 senior was second on the team in assists with eight and third in scoring with seven goals. And even though her statistics might not jump off the page, she was at the start of many scoring plays.
“She’s the stereotypical ‘big dog in a little body,’ ” Robinson said. “She does not have the size, but she plays so much bigger than she is. People always ask, ‘Who’s that No. 10?’ She works really hard and some people say she [was] the glue to our midfield.”
Jabara always had a high work rate. While she admitted it’s been difficult to compete against bigger and stronger players, the size mismatch ultimately helped her evolve into a more well-rounded player—she said it motivated her to sharpen her skills in order to counter opponents’ physicality. In the last two years, Robinson said, Jabara has truly come into her own, both in terms of skill and in recognizing—and executing—the right plays.
Though Walter Johnson is set to graduate nine seniors, including Murtha, Jabara, Cameryn Grimes (five goals, three assists), Anya Ditchek (three, four) and central defender Rachel Lux, the Wildcats return a core of talented players, including Maloney (14 goals) and classmates Lauren Danco and central defender Nicole Lopez, sophomore goalkeeper Ally Holden, and freshmen Emmi Mills and Olivia McBerry, capable of keeping the program’s momentum moving forward.
“Liz and I shared conversations throughout the season, just between the two of us, and I told her, she’s got the best player in the state, so hopefully, when it came down to it, she would be able to get the job done,” Walter Johnson boys soccer coach Hector Morales said. “And just as she has done all season with her will to shift play, [Murtha] found a way to score [in overtime]. It was a great way to end her personal career, but also the team’s season.”