Long Reach hasn’t exactly had the reputation of being a traditional girls soccer powerhouse. If you look in the Maryland State record book, there is no trace of the Lightning listed in those pages.
On Monday evening, however, that all changed.
Getting a goal from Heather Glasser early in the second half, Long Reach defeated Loch Raven, 1-0, to capture the Class 2A North Region championship for the first time in program history.
“Since the school was built, we have never really been a (great) soccer team. I’ve been on varsity for three years and out of nowhere, we just started beating people,” senior striker Kristen Fawole said. “This is like the greatest feeling you could ever have after losing so much.”
The Lightning have surprised just about everyone this season, with the exception of second-year coach Erik Sanderson.
“The girls can look back to some of the things that I talked about in the beginning of the year and remember that I said ‘the state championship game will be around the November teens,’” Sanderson said. “I knew this team was going to be awesome.
“They probably didn’t believe it until maybe three or four games into the season when they realized that we can beat these teams. Now they believe that they can do anything.”
Glasser, a junior midfielder, provided the game-winner in the 43rd minute after receiving a corner kick sent in from the right side by Angelina Rebaza. Glasser was able to carve out some space in between the defense and tucked the ball perfectly into the back of the net.
“I didn’t even think I was going to be able to get to the ball,” Glasser said. “I just stuck my foot out, made a connection and it flew over the keeper’s hand right into the top corner. I kind of watched it in slow motion.”
The Raiders (8-6-2), who beat Oakland Mills, 1-0, to advance to the regional final, controlled the run of play early, and put pressure on Long Reach by putting three shots on goal in the first several minutes.
Keeper Emily Bradford made two saves and the other went just wide to give the Lightning’s defensive back line, led by freshman Rachel Kim, a chance to settle into the game.
“Defensively we started off a little shaky but once we started talking, everyone knew where to be,” Bradford said. “I love our sweeper Rachel. She knows when I’m going to get the ball, and she knows when I’m not going to, so she pretty much cleans up the mess that I can’t get to.”
The Lightning (12-5-0) controlled the final 20 minutes of the half, but Raiders’ keeper Abigail Porter was just as stout. Porter had five saves in the opening half, including a laser shot from Victoria Simpson in stoppage time.
“We dominated a little bit early in the first half and had a couple good shots on goal,” Loch Raven coach Anthony Menegatti said. “The goalie made some nice saves that kept them in it. They battled back hard in the middle part of the game, then we dominated again in the end. We almost put in a few, but it was a good team effort by all of us.”
The Raiders played a strong second half and continued to attack as time winded down.
Samantha Knapp had collected a free kick from Jessica Carpenter and fired a shot on goal in the 64th minute. Bradford made a save as she fell to the ground and prevented the ball from squeezing through her legs.
In stoppage time, Carpenter had one last opportunity to even the game with a free kick from 25 yards out, but it hit above the cross bar and went out of play.
Shortly after, the whistle sounded and Long Reach knew it would be able to continue its magical run toward a state crown.
“I can’t even fathom what just happened; it’s too surreal,” Glasser said. “It probably won’t hit me that we’re regional champs until I go to bed tonight. When we started the season, we never thought that we would get here. This is way bigger than we ever thought.”
Class 2A North Region finals
Long Reach 1, Loch Raven 0
Goal: Long Reach – Glasser.
Assist: Long Reach – A. Rebaza.
Saves: Loch Raven – Porter 7; Long Reach – Bradford 4.
Half: 0-0 .