Despite a late surge that nearly sent Saturday’s 2A state semifinal girls soccer match to overtime, it was Loch Raven’s early success that proved to be the difference. Behind first-half goals from seniors Katie Krejcik and Julia Davis, the Raiders defeated Marriotts Ridge, 2-1, at Bel Air High School.
“We knew they played aggressive defense, and we were just hoping to get behind them if we could,” said Loch Raven coach Anthony Menegatti, whose team will now play for its first state title since 2009.
“They are tremendously coached. We were fortunate and aggressive, and the ball bounced our way a couple of times.”
The Raiders weren’t shy about pushing the envelope early against the Mustangs. Less than three minutes into the opening half, Lindsay Farrell broke away from a Marriotts Ridge defender and sprinted down the right side of the field.
A quick cross inside the box was all it took, and Davis was able to rocket a shot past senior keeper Jenna Bergquist.
Given the style of play that the Mustangs often exhibited throughout much of the season, as well as the strong goalie play from Bergquist, Menegatti knew that scoring opportunities might be hard to come by.
“We definitely wanted to keep gunning,” he said, adding that his players never got complacent throughout the entire contest.
But, with what Mustangs coach Robin Grey said was an early lack of communication on the field, the Raiders were able to strike again.
With 15:17 remaining before intermission, junior midfielder Alexis Corbitt took an open shot from roughly 12 yards out.
In an attempt to break up the opportunity, Bergquist moved up in the box and dove at the ball. Though she did get a hand on the shot, the ricochet landed in front of Krejcik, and Loch Raven’s leading scorer found the back of the net.
By the end of the first half, Marriotts Ridge had finally found a rhythm, and many goal chances were just barely thwarted by the Raider defense.
“Unfortunately in the first half, we made some critical errors,” said Grey, who had led the Mustangs to their first regional championship, and state semifinal appearance, in school history. “We thought if we came out strong in the second half, that could make the difference.”
The Mustangs responded to their coach’s request, and just four minutes into the second half, Naomi Feldman converted on a far post shot from 12 yards away.
After a few chances in the box, a chaotic attempt to clear the ball from Raider territory resulted in Feldman’s chance.
“It was kind of hectic,” she said. “The ball was just bouncing everywhere.”
That’s when senior forward Taylor Hensh fed the ball to Feldman.
“Taylor and I had really good communication and I finished it,” Feldman added. “It really gave us a lot of motivation. We played our hearts out.”
Marriotts Ridge, known for solid defensive play from backs like Sam Price and Morgan Hochuli, was able to keep the Raiders out of the net for the remainder of the game.
Acting as a coach on the field, Bergquist can often be heard shouting out coverage calls to her teammates from the net. Her five saves kept the Mustangs in position to pull even, especially late in the game when Loch Raven dropped players back on defense.
“I really thought we had momentum towards the end,” Grey said. “We just kept plugging away. Soccer is a funny sport…sometimes luck has to be on your side. Unfortunately, it wasn’t on ours tonight.”
As the seconds ticked off the clock, two first half scores were all that was needed, and the Raiders were able to put the Mustangs away.
Grey, whose squad finished 13-3-2 on the season overall, said that it was the senior leadership that propelled the team to the new level in the end.
“What they’ve done for this program, they’ve truly made their mark,” she said. “This is our game, and the heart you saw at the end, that’s my girls.”
Loch Raven (16-3) will move on to play Century High School for the 2A state title.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun