By Chelsea Janes and Isabelle Khurshudyan November 8 at 10:49 PM
As River Hill Coach Brian Song watched his team during brunch Saturday morning, he noticed his freshmen were less talkative than usual.
Unlike his upperclassmen, who had seen it all as the Hawks marched to consecutive Maryland 3A state championships over the past two seasons, those freshmen had never experienced the pressure of a state tournament game.
But as that pressure mounted Saturday at CCBC-Essex when the Hawks fell behind Bel Air in the opening minutes of a 3A semifinal, a freshman revived them.
Midfielder Victoria Tran tied the score with 30 minutes to play, a goal that unleashed a flood of Hawks chances, including the game-winning free kick by junior Jessica Hopkins that sent the Hawks back to the 3A title game with a 2-1 win.
"I could see they were a little jittery,” Song said. "So I told the upperclassmen, tell them what the experience they go through, what you guys gone through. Tell them: It’s a big stage here. Some people don’t ever get the opportunity.”
Tran’s goal seemed to remind River Hill (16-2) that it had been down in big games many times before, and rallied nearly as often. Soon, chances came in droves, two of which required stunning clears off the Bel Air (16-2) goal line by desperate defenders. Hopkins scored her goal with fewer than 20 minutes to go, a seeing-eye free kick blasted from more than 20 yards out.
River Hill will play for its third straight title next week. The Hawks won three state championships from 2006 to 2008, with two coming at the 2A level.
Linganore 2, Northern 0
The Northern girls’ soccer team could not end Linganore’s run of dominance as the Patriots fell in a shutout in Saturday’s Maryland 3A state semifinal at CCBC-Essex. The loss ended a strong season for the emerging Patriots (13-3-0), who won their first 3A South region title since 2008. "I thought we played the game well, we possessed the ball well, we just couldn’t quite finish tonight,” Patriots Coach Jay Loveless said. Northern kept pace with Linganore (17-0-0) — which has now outscored opponents 59-3 this season — for nearly the entire first half, generating as many chances as the Lancers and nearly taking a lead on multiple occasions. But the Lancers broke through first with just fewer than 10 minutes to play in the first half, then added another 35 seconds into the second to doom the Patriots.
Howard 2, South River 0
There was a day before the season that first-year Howard Coach Bali Boule thought to herself, "I’m doing it.” The Lions’ girls’ soccer team had never won a region championship before, much less advanced to the state title game, but Boule couldn’t think of a reason why it couldn’t be in her first year as the coach.
Howard did it. The Lions knocked off perennial power South River, 2-0, to advance to the 4A final, joining a Howard County tradition of producing state championship-contending soccer teams.
"We’re planting a seed,” Boule said.
Senior Nia Elbeck boosted the Lions on Saturday night in what Boule said was one of the best games she’s seen Elbeck play. She got the Lions on the board in the fifth minute with an unassisted goal hit past the South River goalkeeper. Then in the 30th minute, Elbeck dribbled through South River defenders, then connected with Sarah Cocozza, who kicked in a goal to the upper left center of the net to give the Lions a 2-0 lead at halftime.
Calvert 4, Oakdale 0
The Cavaliers got goals from Melanie Lippert, Camryn Williams and Sydney Watson (two) to emphatically punch their ticket to the team’s first Maryland 1A title game by beating Oakdale in Bel Air. Hailey Williams assisted on two goals, and Biz Hite and Alli Higgs had assists on the other two goals. Calvert will play Fallston, which beat the Cavaliers in the 2012 semifinal game, for the state championship.
"It’s been in our sights the last couple of years,” Coach Dawn Lister said. "We’ve been playing really good soccer, and we’ve had really successful seasons the whole time these seniors have been with us, so they’ve been chomping at the bit to get to a state final game.”