It came down to the wire, and the intensity could be felt throughout the entire stadium at River Hill High School on Friday night.
Eighty minutes of regulation had expired, two golden goal overtimes came and went, and Reservoir was forced to keep pace with the Hawks in penalty kicks.
Following two Gator misses, the entire River Hill girls soccer team sprinted onto the field, embracing keeper Julia Caine.
The Hawks had prevailed, 6-5, in PKs against the Gators, earning a berth in the 3A East Regional championship game against county-rival Centennial.
“This is really amazing…I think we worked really hard as a team to win this game,” said an emotional Sheridan Street. “This is a big deal beating Reservoir, and we knew it was going to be a really, really hard game.”
Street scored twice in her last game on her home field, drawing even with the Gators before the first 40 minutes had concluded.
In the first half, both teams got off to fast starts. Trading shot for shot, it was Reservoir that got on the board first.
Just eight minutes into the contest, Keri Rager took a pass from about 35 yards out. After beating two River Hill defenders, she shot and found the back of the net.
Ten minutes later, fellow senior Delaney Reiff took a throw-in, beat one defender in the box, and shot far-post. The score put the Gators in front 2-0, something the Hawks had not been used to for much of the season.
“In the first 20 minutes, they kicked our butt,” said Hawks coach Brian Song. “You could definitely tell that our girls were frustrated.”
Song said he told his girls to keep their heads up. He stressed the importance of even play with the Gators for the remainder of the game.
Street helped River Hill settle its nerves after taking a pass from Jessie Hopkins on the outside, and scoring with twelve minutes remaining before intermission.
“When she got that goal, I think that took (Reservoir) down a notch,” Song added of the momentum swing in the closing moments of the first half.
Just five minutes after Street ended the Gators’ chances of a shutout, she notched her second goal of the game.
After two quick moves against Reservoir defenders, Street broke away and scored, tying the match at 2-2.
Though there were multiple chances on each side following the break, defense from players like River Hill’s Callie Allen was matched by the play of Reservoir’s Blair Bonner and Reiff.
The score remained at a draw.
Reservoir coach Josh Sullivan called the first half a “wild” one, adding that he thought the second half featured much better overall play.
“I think everyone got their nerves calmed down and started playing a little bit smarter—on both sides,” he said. “If you make a mistake, Sheridan capitalizes on it. We did that twice.”
Following two 10-minute periods of overtime, team captains met at centerfield to discuss the terms of PKs.
First up was River Hill’s Jessie Hopkins, who scored on a shot to Reservoir keeper Abby Gillum’s right. Lilly Hermina countered for the Gators, tying the shots at 1-1.
Street, Alex Hamer, Becca Higgins and Julianna ball all scored for the Hawks, while Bonner, Paola Rosa, Julianne Knoblett and Rager answered for the Gators, making it 5-5.
River Hill Senior Maddie Haugh stepped up with a chance to give the Hawks their sixth consecutive successful shot.
However, Haugh’s ball sailed over the crossbar, giving Reservoir’s Kylie Toler a chance to win it for the Gators.
“We practiced PKs so much,” said Haugh. “I thought I had it. I just wasn’t thinking right and did something completely different from what I normally do.”
Still, the Hawks found retribution, as Toler’s shot also traveled well above the goal.
O’Brien put River Hill in the lead, and when Anna Janush missed left of the goal as the Gators' final shooter, the Hawks were victorious.
Sullivan praised his team’s ability to counter every chance the Hawks had, saying the quality of play was more indicative of a state title-type match, rather than just a sectional championship.
“Unfortunately, someone has to lose,” he said. “That was a game that both teams fought hard.”
River Hill’s next test is a match-up with the Centennial Eagles, who will host the Hawks on Tuesday for a chance to advance to the 3A state semifinals.
“I give credit to (Reservoir coach) Josh (Sullivan) and his team,” Song said. “We were a little fortunate, and we came out on top today.”
2A South Section I Final
Marriotts Ridge used a Mary Koutrelakos goal in the final minutes of the second half to lift the Mustangs over the Calvert Cavaliers, 1-0.
The Mustangs advance to the regional championship game on Tuesday, when it will face Southern High School.