River Hill pulls away late for berth in girls soccer 3A state championship game

Michaela Hennessy has stepped up her playoff game and she’s carrying River Hill right along with her.

The senior scored 20 minutes into the second half to put River Hill on the scoreboard and spark the Hawks to a 3-0 win over defending state champion Huntingtown in the Class 3A state semifinals Saturday.

The win marked River Hill’s 18th in a row this fall and, for Hennessy, it was her third winning goal in as many games. She also assisted on the Hawks’ other two goals against Huntingtown, from Calvert County.

“She said in practice that she didn’t want her season to end,” said coach Brian Song, who notched his 125th win in eight years at River Hill. “She is playing unbelievable. All the seniors are.”

Hennessy scored the only goal against Wilde Lake in the regional semifinals. She also had the winning goal against Atholton in the regional championship to put the Hawks in the final four for the first time since 2008, when they won their seventh state title.

“We’ve wanted to get to the states since last year (when River Hill got bumped off early in the regional playoffs) so I decided to step it up. So now we are going to the states and it is awesome,” Hennessy said.

River Hill will play the winner of the Urbana and C. M. Wright contest, played Saturday evening. The state championship game will be played at UMBC, but the date and game time has not been determined.

For the first 40 minutes against Huntingtown (17-3), River Hill showed little spark.

“We were definitely a little nonchalant” in the first half, Song said. “At halftime, I got a little upset. They weren’t playing up to their capability. They were playing down a level. I told them the person today who will be successful will be the second person who gets the ball. Drop it off, get the ball back to Michaela or Katie (Arensmeier) and you’ll get the return ball.”

That strategy led to Hennessy’s goal.

Just as she has since the first playoff game, a 6-0 win over Mt. Hebron, Hennessy has made things happen on the left sideline and set the tone for River Hill’s run.

“I made my run just in case anything happened,” she said. “Katie Arensmeier crossed it and I got a touch on it. The same thing has happened the last two games and it is the best feeling ever.”

“Michaela has stepped up so much,” said defender Haily Emrick. “I am not sure what’s gotten into her but are we are thankful she has stepped up. She trucks through everyone and plays with her heart and it shows.”

“Michaela knows how to finish,” said Arensmeier, who had the Hawks’ third and final goal. “She can beat anybody. She has a classic step-over move. Even though she does it every time, they never catch on.”

Arensmeier’s goal came off a cross from Emrick. Hennessy got a head on the ball and Arensmeier finished for her eighth goal of the fall. Hennessy now has nine goals and six assists.

Sheridan Street got the second goal of the game, off a cross from Hennessy. It was Street’s 22nd goal of the season.

“That second goal definitely killed our confidence,” said Huntingtown coach Jill Twetten. River Hill “had the soccer skills to get the job done. I had seen them in a scrimmage (early in the season) and I knew what we were up against. But for the first 60 minutes, I thought it was an even contest.”

Huntingtown had ousted Reservoir, 1-0, in last year’s state semifinal on the same field at Community College Baltimore County Essex, and went on to beat Urbana for the state crown. But that Hurricane team graduated 10 seniors and was playing without its leading scorer, Victoria Bellucci.

Emrick shut down Huntingtown’s other major threat, freshman Sarah Osborne, who entered the game with 17 goals.

“We made sure Haily was marking her the entire time and she did it. She shut (Osborne) down the entire time,” said defender Colleen McKenna.

Huntingtown keeper Emily Chapman had five saves for the game, including stopping a penalty kick by Arensmeier in the first half. Huntington had one shot in the game, saved by keeper Allison Lloyd.

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