River Hill's Sheridan Street, left, and Damascus's Amanda Amankwa fight for possession during the girls soccer 3A state semifinal match at CCBC-Essex on Saturday, Nov. 9. (Jon Sham / November 9, 2013)
Back in August, as I was compiling all the information I needed for my girls soccer preview story, I exchanged a few emails with River Hill coach Brian Song.
Being new to my position with the Howard County Times, I thought it was important to ask as many questions of each coach as possible, even if some were repetitive or seemed obvious.
In a uniform email, sent to every coach in Howard County, I wanted to know each team's stregnths and weaknesses, as well as any storylines heading into the 2013 season.
One of Song’s responses stuck with me.
“There are no changes from year to year. The players want to win the county, and state, as it is the tradition at River Hill,” he said.
While some coaches made claims that ranged from losing a number of seniors, to the quality competition in the rest of the county, Song was absolute in his expectations.
Was it a bold statement? Maybe.
But, why should the four-time state champion coach have waivered in his resolve?
The Hawks were fresh off a 3A state title against C. Milton Wright in 2012. Syracuse-bound Sheridan Street was returning for her senior year, and a host of other players — senior Callie Allen, juniors Alex Hamer and Jen Voyton, and sophomore Jessie Hopkins — were in a position to strengthen what looked like an unstoppable force coming out of Clarksville.
Factor in one of the county’s top keepers in Julia Caine, and the Hawks were poised for another great year.
Sitting at 13-4-1 on the season, River Hill will get its shot to repeat. The Hawks will battle Huntingtown High School on Thursday night at UMBC for the 3A state championship.
One of my first assignments covering Howard County girls soccer was a matchup between the Hawks and visiting Reservoir — another top team heading into 2013.
For much of the contest, the score remained a 0-0 draw. It wasn’t until Hamer’s goal late in the second half that her team went ahead.
The rest the season was more of the same, as overtime victories and close calls piled up.
Though the Hawks dropped tough early games to out-of-county powerhouses in Good Counsel, McDonogh and Bishop O’Connell, they kept their eyes on the prize.
Even a miscue in the rain against Atholton — River Hill’s first county loss since 2011 — didn’t change the team’s ultimate goal.
After finishing the season strong, and claiming the county championship outright, Song’s squad entered the postseason with a sectional No. 1 seed in the 3A state playoffs.
The Hawks collected close wins against Wilde Lake, Reservoir and Centennial to claim a regional championship. A win last Saturday over previously undefeated Damascus ensured a spot in the state final.
“Everybody said, looking at the record, they were much better than we were,” said Song after his squad’s win over the Hornets. “But I said, in my opinion, we played one of the toughest schedules for public schools.”
One thing that has been consistent throughout the 2013 campaign has been the play of Street, who has two goals in each of her last three playoff games.
Including Saturday's win, Street has tallied 14 goals this season. Her seven assists rank third on the team.
Song repeatedly speaks highly of Street, noting that she not only wants to make her mark on the Hawks’ girls soccer program, but on the state level as well.
Selected by the Howard County girls soccer coaches as a first-team all-county player, Street will look to lead the Hawks against the 2011 state champion Hurricanes — her final high school game.
Follow along on Twitter (@MattOwings) for updates on Thursday night’s contest. Also, remember to check HowardCountyTimes.com for coverage following the match.