The girls soccer state playoff brackets were released Monday, allowing most teams across the county a few days off to prepare for the opening round.
For Howard and Mt. Hebron, however, there was still one game left to play, and thanks to weather and scheduling conflicts, it wouldn’t count toward playoff seeding.
Nia Elbeck scored twice, Christine Robinson converted on a free kick, and the Lions (6-5) defeated the Vikings (5-5-1), 3-0.
“In the beginning of the first half, we didn’t play that well,” said Elbeck after the game. “Then we started to connect on passes…and coach told us to pick up our intensity and work on the little things.”
Lions coach Nick Zaron said his squad needed to make crucial adjustments after the first 40 minutes.
“First half was not looking good,” he said. “We came out flat.”
The Vikings were close to connecting on a number of chances in the first half, but Howard still kept them out of the net.
“(Vikings defender) Nia Crump in the middle is a very strong player. We were trying to do too much down the middle of the field, and that was playing to their advantage.”
Instead, Zaron said he told his team to focus on spreading the ball out—a decision that changed the course of the game for Howard.
With 26 minutes remaining in the match, Maddie Barrow sent a free kick into the box for Elbeck, who headed the ball into the net for the game’s first score.
With four minutes remaining, Amanda Matus booted a long pass from Howard’s own territory to Elbeck, who beat a challenging goalie for her second score of the evening.
Robinson had what Zaron called “the icing on the cake” when her free kick from well outside the box got by Vikings keeper Jen Skinner’s outstretched arms.
Mt. Hebron coach Tim Deppen said something changed for the worst with his squad from the first to the second half.
“We went from being a composed team that was putting a ton of pressure on their defense, and was moving the ball forward really well, to a team that didn’t know how to stop them from doing the same thing to us,” he said. “And it happened fast.”
Both teams will be back in action for the start of the playoffs on Friday. Hebron welcomes Long Reach, while Howard will travel to Paint Branch.
The Vikings defeated the Lightning earlier in the regular season 4-1.
“I am confident in the team that I have,” he said, as his team prepares for Friday’s contest.
For Howard, the lone 4A county team, the new classification will be a good challenge.
“We’re going into an uncharted area,” Zaron said. “It’s going to be exciting.”
Glenelg Country defeats St. Timothy's, 2-1
Sabrina DeLeonibus, Chloe Lewis and Ninah Dawson all socred for the Dragons (11-1-1 IAAM C) in the win.