Steve Baxter is in his eighth season as the Centennial girls soccer coach, and he insists every match against Atholton in his tenure has been a one-goal game.
His claim seems to check out. The Eagles earned one-score victories from 2012-14, while the Raiders won the next two contests, 2-1, the second of which came in overtime. Baxter’s team then edged Atholton, 1-0, in the 2016 playoffs. It would advance all the way to the 3A state semifinals before falling to Urbana.
After another one-goal battle between Centennial and Atholton this season — the Raiders won, 1-0, in extra time — it would not have been surprising if Tuesday’s postseason matchup ended in similar fashion.
But that was far from the case. In the Raiders’ 5-1 win, they blitzed the Eagles with three goals in the first 25 minutes, taking advantage off mishits and miscommunication around the net. Their efficient attack scored twice more after halftime to seal the victory and advance to the 3A East, Section I final against Reservoir on Thursday.
“We always have a history of going into overtime with them,” senior Adrienne Vaughn said. “So for us to be able to finish this game in 80 minutes is really exciting.”
Victoria Huxtable led Atholton (10-3) with two goals, but Adrienne Vaughn paced the Raiders offense throughout. She tallied two assists, one to Huxtable and the other to junior Lilly Decellas. Senior Christina Rogers and junior Catalina Lennon also found the back of the net.
Senior Kelli Dunagan netted the lone goal for Centennial (9-6-1).
“’We made mistakes, and we made mistakes in our own end, and they’re good enough to capitalize,” Baxter said.
“You saw how good the passing was,” he added. “We were pinging the ball all over the place. Then when they’d get it, they’d ping it around. It was a beautiful game. The score does not reflect what happened on the field.”
Baxter said his team gifted Atholton its first goal, which came less than four minutes into the contest. As Huxtable’s corner kick curled towards the goal, there was a miscommunication between Courtney McVicker and a fellow defender.
Moments later, the ball bounced off the junior goalkeeper and trickled across the end line.
“It helped that we got up early,” coach Stephanie Stoutenborough said.
About 10 minutes later, McVicker appeared caught off guard by Rogers’ rebound attempt from up top. And even then, she might not have been able to make the save. Rogers’ strike sailed over McVicker’s head and just under the top crossbar.
Trailing, 2-0, with 17:14 before halftime, Centennial tried to possess the ball in its defensive third. An Eagles outside back attempted to pass it back to McVicker, who would clear the ball away.
Her hit wasn’t strong enough, however, allowing Vaughn to take over. She quickly assessed the situation. McVicker came charging off her line, while another Eagles defender also committed to stopping the ball. That left Decellas all alone with an open net.
Vaughn made the easy decision.
“That’s where Adrienne Vaughn shows how good she is,” Baxter said. “Instead of trying to finish that, she lays it right across for her teammate to walk it in. That’s just a great player.”
After Atholton struggled to score in the regular season finale against Centennial, Stoutenborough said the team worked on taking quick shots in training. Inside the 18-yard-box, she encouraged not to dribble but to shoot.
The Raiders executed those attempts Tuesday.
Early in the second half, Vaughn received a pass on the left side. After one-touch, she sent a pass back across the net, assuming Katie Cardea would be on the other end to score. Instead, it was Huxtable who finished past sophomore Ashley Bilger, who replaced McVicker in net to start the second half.
At that point, Atholton held a commanding lead. While Centennial eventually got on the board, it gave up a fifth goal in the final minutes.
Neither team was used to this type of outcome, but the Raiders were relieved to be on the right side of it. For just this once, they didn’t have to worry about the Eagles possibly netting the equalizer down the stretch.
“We came out really hard in my opinion and were really focused during warmups, which we had struggled with,” Vaughn said. “All of us were extremely pumped, so we were really excited that we finished this the way that we did.”
3A East, Section I
Atholton (10-3) — 5, Centennial (9-6-1) — 1
Goals: A — Huxtable 2, Rogers, Decellas, Lennon; C — Dunagan.
Assists: A — Vaughn 2, Cardea; C — Ashley Deng.
Saves: A — Bryce Bathras 10; C — Bilger 2, McVicker 1.
Half: 3-0, A.
Reservoir (9-5-1) — 1, Mt. Hebron (10-4-1) — 0
Goals: Re — Blair Vant Hoff.
Assists: Re — Brianna Bonilla.
Saves: Re — Lizzie Dudzinski 7, MH — 5.
Half: 1-0, Re.
2A South, Section I
River Hill (13-2) — 4, Glenelg (5-9-1) — 0
Goals: RH — Brigette Wang, Megan Chun, Jules Grasso.
Assists: RH — Wang, Chun, Victoria Tran, Danielle Poindexter.
Half: 3-0, RH.
Wilde Lake (12-2-1) — 1, Marriotts Ridge (7-7-1) — 0
Goals: WL — Kaitlyn Vong.
Assists: WL — Julianna Bonner.
Saves: WL — Jenna Hutchison 4.
4A North, Section I
Howard (6-6-1) — 10, Western — 0
IAAM B Conference quarterfinal
Maryvale — 2, Glenelg Country (11-3) — 1
Goals: GCS — Ava Swartz.
Saves: GCS — Ali Bateman 6.