River Hill girls soccer senior Carly Wetzel is used to preventing goals — not scoring them. But in the second half against Wilde Lake on Tuesday night, she wound up in the perfect position to seal yet another Hawks victory.
Off a free kick, senior Megan Chun sent the ball into the box from the left side. It bounced once, then caromed off a Wildecats player and in front of the goal. Wetzel was right there, only having to move a few steps before sending her sliding shot past the diving goalkeeper with about 17 minutes left in regulation.
Wetzel, who has played stopper the past two years, responded to her first goal of the year by throwing her fist in the air. She then jumped into junior Ashlee Hamer’s outstretched arms. Shortly after, Hawks teammates came over to celebrate the second and final tally of River Hill’s shutout victory.
“Today was probably our first complete game for 80 minutes,” coach Brian Song said. “I’m pretty happy today.”
With the 2-0 triumph, River Hill (8-0 county, 8-2 overall) has a two-game lead over Wilde Lake (6-2, 9-2) for first place in the Howard County standings. And with less than two weeks left in the regular season, the Hawks are the clear frontrunner to win what would be their first county title since 2014.
Song’s team next plays against Atholton on Friday night before closing out the county season with Long Reach and Reservoir.
“We still got some tough games left, but we’ve done a really good job this season, and we just keep getting better with every game,” Wetzel said. “We’re on a never ending ascension upwards and we have states in sight.”
Aside from scoring the go-ahead goal, Wetzel was one of several players Song commended for shutting down the Wildecats’ attack. Going in, the Hawks aimed to stop juniors Lily Dunbar and Julianna Bonner, the later of which is one of the dangerous goal scorers in the country. They accomplished that and more, limiting Wilde Lake to three shots and alleviating pressure from sophomore Alexa Thompson, who made one save.
On the other end of the field, junior goalie Jenna Hutchison barely had time to relax. She made jumping saves and diving stops as River Hill put 10 shots on goal in the first half and seven more on target after intermission. She finished with 16 saves.
All the while, the Hawks kept attacking. Players such as Chun (two assists) and sophomore Brigette Wang (one goal) maneuvered around Wilde Lake defenders to create scoring opportunities. Many instances ended in a Hutchinson save, a corner kick or a free kick.
But with about 11 minutes to go before halftime, the duo connected for a score to put River Hill ahead.
From there, last year’s 2A state champions didn’t have much trouble maintaining the advantage. They controlled the game, Song said, by winning the 50/50 balls and challenging Wilde Lake whenever it had possession.
And despite failing to reach its season scoring average — four goals per game after Tuesday’s result — River Hill produced when it had to. First it was Wang, the team’s leading scorer, who has now tallied double-digit goals.
Then came Wetzel, an unlikely scoring threat but one who all but put the match out of reach.
“They’re a really tough team and they have a lot of experience,” Wilde Lake coach Megan Shea said, “I think that showed here tonight.”