BALTIMORE —It was cold Thursday evening, and snow fell on the field at Loyola University as the No.3River Hill Hawks girls’ soccer teamwarmed up. But neither the chill nor the fact they had arrived just 30 minutes before the game against Linganore much concerned the two-time defending Maryland 3A champions.
Despite the traffic-induced bustle, senior Alex Hamerand junior Jess Hopkins were enjoying themselves as usual. The leaders who had shouldered the program’s weighty tradition were laughing, jumping and joking as they jostled for loose balls in warmups.
Hamer and Hopkins put the Hawks at relative ease immediately. With two goals in the first seven minutes — first Hamer to Hopkins, then Hopkins to Hamer — River Hill nabbed a 2-1 victory and its third straight 3A state championship.
"I think all of the diverse situations we’ve been in have all prepared us in leading up to moments like these, when it’s crucial that no matter what comes up, you still need to score, still need to pull the win through,” Hamer said.
Given how the season played out and how often the pair combined to save the Hawks (17-2), the state final hardly could have gone another way. But it might have gone differently were it not for a spectacular diving save by senior goalkeeper Julia Caine, who turned away what would have been the tying goal on a penalty kick midway through the second half.
Things also might have gone differently if freshman Megan Chunhadn’t cleared a dangerous corner off the line a few minutes later. Junior Becca Higginslater cleared a ball off the line, into the post and out of harm’s way.
River Hill’s goals were the fourth and fifth conceded by Linganore all season. The Lancers had never trailed in a game all season.
With freshmen such as like Chun chipping in at key positions around them, Hamer (11 goals, 13 assists) and Hopkins (13 goals, 21 assists) steadied the Hawks through another dominant season: their only losses came to WCAC Washngton Catholic Athletic Conference champion Good Counsel and nationally ranked McDonogh.
"Something that really helps is their experience being here in the past,” River Hill Coach Brian Song said. "The seniors now have played in three finals. My juniors, they’ve already played in three finals.”
The three-peat is the third for River Hill. The Hawks won three straight state titles from 2006 to 2008 and also from 1999 to 2001. River Hill has played in 10 state finals. The Hawks have yet to lose.