Thursday’s slate of girls soccer games in Howard County promise not to disappoint, and the prospect of a three-way tie for the league title makes for one of the most exciting regular season finishes in recent memory.
For the first time in five years, Wilde Lake (7-2-1) has a chance for at least a share of the county championship.
Standing in the Wildecats’ way, however, are the homestanding River Hill Hawks (8-1-1), who would rather be crowned champions outright than share it with a possible playoff opponent.
“You work so hard for the season, and that’s not how we want to end it,” said Hawks coach Brian Song of the title. “Wilde Lake tomorrow (Thursday) is going to be a tough game. They are going to come out strong.”
The Hawks have been a prominent squad not just on the state level, but on the national girls soccer scene as well. Injuries and tough out-of-county foes have forced Song’s squad to adjust.
Talented players such as Sheridan Street, Alex Hamer, Jen Voyton and Jessie Hopkins will be looking to keep the pre-season goal intact: repeat as 3A state champions.
“We have girls actually putting their hearts out there, even though they aren’t physically well,” Song said. “That speaks for the program—and the girls—itself.”
Song said his expectations could have been a little high, but it’s the girls who will decide whether they can play at the highest possible level.
“I could coach all I want, but ultimately the girls will make the difference,” he said.
Wilde Lake is in a different situation than the Hawks. The Wildecats haven't seen a share of the county title since coach Davia Procida’s father was at the helm of the program.
Procida said her squad is eager to challenge the Hawks.
“In practice, we basically had a talk about embracing this game,” Procida said. “We have the utmost respect for the River Hill soccer program.”
Wilde Lake and River Hill both belong to District 1, meaning that Thursday’s matchup be a preview of what is to come in the postseason.
“We’ll definitely take away a lot from this game for the playoffs,” Procida said. “It will be really awesome to win, but if we lose…we move on. It’s a brand new opportunity in the playoffs.”
The scenarios for Centennial (7-2-1), River Hill and Wilde Lake go as follows.
If the Eagles defeat Mt. Hebron Thursday, and the Wildecats win, they will join River Hill in a three-way tie for the county championship.
If Centennial loses, but Wilde Lake wins, the Hawks will share the crown with the Wildecats.
If River Hill wins, it will own sole possession of the title.
The stage is set, and the Howard County girls soccer title race is going down to the wire.
“We are just really happy for our girls to be in this position,” Procida said. “My dad and I are really excited for them.”