By Stefanie Vestal
As the seconds ticked down to 0:00 on the scoreboard the Justice High School field hockey team watched their 3-1 lead against Falls Church turn into their second National District Championship in as many seasons. In both the 2020 and 2021 Field Hockey seasons the Justice team has been undefeated in the district on their way to winning the first District Titles for the school since 1972.
Over the past few seasons, the team has been steadily improving thanks to a core group of players who have been committed to improving their skills in the off season. Many players have participated in camps, clinics, leagues, and off-season practices to help develop as individual players and a team. The team has also worked to involve younger students from elementary and middle schools to get them to learn field hockey to prepare for when they get to Justice.
This year the team advanced to the quarterfinals of the Occoquan Regional Tournament for the second year in a row but unfortunately saw their season end in a triple overtime shoot-out game losing by just one goal. The team ended with a 19-2 record, one of, if not the best in school history.
For the past two seasons much of the success of the team has come from the leadership and cohesiveness of the defense. This year Justice had 13 shut-out games and only one game where the opponent score more than one goal. The defensive unit has been led for two years by Senior co-captain Katie Sponaugle who was voted the Player of the Year for the National District. Fellow senior captains Riley Grant and Grace Martin (also a First Team All-Conference selection), Senior and Second Team All-District Goalie Natalie Romero-Marves, and sophomore Sophia DePasquale make up the rest of the nearly impenetrable defense.
On offense Seniors again have led the way with two First Team All-District players, Brooke Hothem and Maria Papas as the leading scorers for the Wolves. Of the 79 goals that the team scored this season more than 1/3 were scored by either Papas or Hothem. This year Papas recorded her 100th career point making her one of the highest point scorers in school history. Juniors Samantha Schrecker, Gabby Jesse, and Sofia Ielmini have all been impact players for the Wolves this season as forwards and midfielders.
This year the team is graduating 10 seniors, all of them who have had a huge impact on the program over the past few years. They will be tremendously missed, but the team is looking towards a bright future with several sophomores and juniors who were starters and made valuable contributions this season.