Girls soccer teams from C. Milton Wright and Fallston will play for state championships this week after winning state semifinal games over the weekend.
The Cougars scored a 1-0 semifinal victory over Calvert in the 2A semi Friday. The Mustangs topped Urbana, 2-1, in their 3A semi Saturday.
Breaking a jinx
The C. Milton Wright girls broke a two-year state semifinal jinx Saturday evening at CCBC-Essex.
In beating Urbana, 2-1, in a Class 3A state semifinal, the Mustangs win avenged a 1-0 loss to Urbana in last year's semifinals. The Mustangs also lost to Huntingtown, 1-0, in 2010. In both cases, the game-deciding goal came late in the second half.
"Oh my god, it's such a good feeling," Abby Smucker, C. Milton Wright's senior captain, said following Saturday's victory. "Coming into this game, we knew we were here twice and we knew that feeling of getting all the way here and losing and we didn't want that happening again, so the third time is a charm."
Smucker, the Mustangs first team all-state defender, was one of several players taken down hard in the contest. Unlike the others, Smucker never played in the second half after suffering a hamstring injury late in the first half, the second time she was taken down.
Urbana players were hit with four yellow cards, two within the first 25 minutes of the game.
Despite the hard and, at times, borderline dirty play, CMW found a way to cope and score.
The Mustangs broke on top at the 30:56 mark on a free kick from 29-yards out. Angela Kuhn played the ball in short of the Urbana goal, where Sarah Piazza delivered the ball to Kathy Kammerer, who scored off the Urbana goalie's hands.
Hawks keeper Natasja Hirabayashi got her left hand on the shot, but the force of the close shot allowed the ball to deflect past Hirabayashi's hand and trickle into the goal.
CMW added its second goal with 13:11 left on a feed from Smucker to fellow senior midfielder Liz Burgee.
Smucker one-timed a ball that was headed out of the Urbana zone, up and over the Hawks defense to Burgee.
Burgee collected the ball, took one dribble to her left and another around the goalie, before turning and placing it into the empty net for a 2-0 lead.
CMW may have still been in celebration mode as Urbana answered exactly one minute later off a set play.
Urbana senior Jen Heflin placed a corner kick onto the head of teammate Jenny Marshall, a two-time, first team all-state performer. Marshall showed why, planting the ball off the inside of the post, high into the goal.
Over a five-minute span just past midway in the half, Urbana picked up the intensity, but the Mustangs answered every challenge.
Speaking on the play of Kelsey Targarona and Kuhn, Smucker said, "They both stepped up for us big in the second half." Targarona slid to the middle in Smucker's spot, and Kuhn filled the empty spot on the side.
"I just think our experience showed tonight," Mustangs head coach Paul Austin said. "They not only want it very badly, they stayed calm, very poised and it showed. They've been that way all year."
That was a bit hard to do at times because of the physical play of the Hawks.
"We held our own, very physical game," Austin said.
The Mustangs were outshot, 8-5, and Urbana had a 6-4 advantage in corner kicks. Mustangs keeper Stacy Venanzi finished with three saves. Hirabayashi had two.
The Mustangs (17-1-1) will face unbeaten River Hill (16-0) for the 3A state crown Thursday at UMBC. Game time is 7:30 p.m.
"River Hill's going to give us a good fight," Smucker said. "All year we've heard about them. We know that they're pretty quick up top, and I'm thinking it's going to be another physical game. Should be a good battle to end the year with."
Cougars win in final seconds
There's nothing like waiting until the final seconds, and that's exactly what the Fallston girls soccer team did Friday night in its 1-0 Class 2A state semifinal with Calvert, played at Bel Air High School.
Fallston sophomore defender Logan Gasior followed her own corner kick and hit a shot on goal from the right side. The ball struck squarely off the inside of the far post and bounced back along the goal line, before bouncing off a Calvert defender and back into the net.
"I just saw the time running down and I just took a shot, hoping someone would finish it or it would go in and it did," Gasior said. "I was very surprised, as soon as I kicked it, I didn't think it was going in. I turned around to get back, but it did go in."
Up until that point, neither team could solve their opponent's defense. The Cougars (15-2-2) had a handful of chances, but high or wide shots missed their mark.
"We're going to PKs, that's what I was thinking," Cougars head coach Mark Hannahs said. "Hey, we'll take it. We started out, nobody expected anything from us. We weren't ranked, we lost 15 seniors, we start three seniors, so we just said, let's sneak under the radar and keep plugging along."
Calvert, led by First Team All-State player Megen Jackson (23 goals, three assists), also had few chances, but their best chance came off of Jackson's foot 11 minutes into the second half. Jackson's 30-yard blast beat Cougars keeper Kayla Reilly, but the right post behind Reilly kept the ball out of the goal.
The Cougars defense did a nice job throughout the night, keeping Jackson and her two sophomore teammates, Alli Higgs (13 goals, 11 assists) and Hailey Williams (12 goals, 21 assists), at bay.
"Their forwards were really skilled, they were really fast," senior sweeper Marissa Walker said. "I just think our defense did a good job anticipating the ball and just stepping up when we needed to. Just keeping the girl in front of us the whole time."
Joining Walker in the back are senior Ashley Mozingo and junior Megan Shock on the sides and Gasior out front.
Cougars goalie Reilly finished with four saves. Calvert goalie Rachel King finished with five saves.
The Cougars will play in the 2A state title game Saturday night at UMBC. The opponent will be Middletown (15-2) and game time is 7:30 p.m.