River Hill’s first-half dominance against Mt. Hebron girls soccer resulted in five shots on goal, four corner kicks and a 1-0 lead at intermission.
Its complacency for much of the second period allowed the Vikings to stay within a goal. Then it cost the Hawks the lead, as senior Emily Hammond netted the equalizer in the 65th minute.
But in a 2-1 victory on Tuesday night, River Hill’s resilience — and a little luck, according to coach Brian Song — led to its third straight win to start the county season. Junior Brigette Wang provided the heroics, her header serving as the go-ahead score with about five minutes to play.
“I guess sometimes you take the luck, right?” Song said. “But I give credit to Tim [Deppen] and how he prepared his team. In my opinion, they definitely wanted it more than we did today. We didn’t have our best game.”
Mt. Hebron (2-1, 4-1) is much improved from last season, when it finished 7-8 and hovered around .500 in county play. The Vikings won their first four games this fall while outscoring their opponents, 16-3. Senior Julz Lamparella has already found the back of the net six times.
Still, River Hill (3-0, 3-2) provided a test unlike anything Deppen’s team had seen so far. And for the first 40 minutes, the Vikings appeared overmatched.
Last year’s 2A state champions constantly moved the ball in Mt. Hebron’s defensive third, producing eight shots and forcing goalkeeper Ainsley Sowers to make four saves.
And many of those looks came after River Hill took a 1-0 lead.
Ten minutes into the contest, Victoria Tran received a pass from freshman Sophia Elguera in open space. After scoring a team-high eight goals last season, Tran didn’t hesitate when given the chance to add another score to her career mark. She executed, forcing Mt. Hebron to quickly play from behind.
River Hill would have doubled its advantage late in the first half if not for Sowers’ two diving saves. It also produced quality shots off set pieces that either soared high or sailed wide of the net.
If the Vikings were going to tie the match, Deppen told his players at halftime, they needed to relax and execute their offensive style.
“The first half, I think it was trying to get the nerves settled, trying to calm down and play some possession,” Deppen said. “We were just smashing the ball up the field and that’s panic mode to me.
“When people just kick the ball and try to run onto it, that’s not soccer to me,” Deppen added, “so we tried to get back to playing like we play.”
While Mt. Hebron appeared more composed after its coach’s speech, Tran said she and her teammates let their guards down because of how the first half unfolded. In dominating early on, she said they underestimated the Vikings. That mindset quickly changed with about 15 minutes left in regulation.
Deppen said much of the Vikings’ scoring success this season has come on set pieces, and they finally earned a corner kick in the 65th minute. Sophomore Julia Noppenberger blasted the initial shot attempt, which the Hawks tried to clear. Instead, Hammond corralled the ball, took one touch, and pierced the top-left corner of the net.
“They wanted it second half,” Tran said, “and I think that showed because we started panicking a little bit.”
Tran and the other two captains — seniors Megan Chun and Carly Wetzel — pulled the team together after the score and emphasized staying patient with the ball.
Put in an unfamiliar spot, their teammates responded.
In the game’s waning moments, Wang sprinted down the middle of the field and hoped for a cross, which came from the right side. The ball deflected off a Vikings defender but popped up over Wang’s head in front of goal.
Almost nonchalantly, Wang jumped and connected on the game-winning header.
“That’s the team that I know,” Song said.