Zarah Kelleher thought she missed her lone opportunity to finally end the game against Atholton Wednesday, flubbing the go-ahead strike at the doorstep with more than a minute left in regulation. Luckily, a defensive three-second violation spared the unsatisfied Kelleher a second chance, sending the River Hill midfielder behind the goal to usher the ball back into play.
Kelleher made sure to exploit the Raiders defense this time around. So once play restarted, the Virginia Tech commit raced to the other side of the net, slipped through the line of defense to perform a slick crease roll and deliver the game-winning goal with 58.3 seconds to go, lifting the Hawks (4-2 county, 5-2 overall) to their fifth win of the season, 10-9.
“Right before the whistle I had that, and I was going to do it, and whenever I got put all the way out there, I was like ‘shoot, I totally lost that opportunity,’” Kelleher said. “But then I saw the defender didn’t follow me at all, and I took my chance.”
It wasn’t a designed play. Kelleher just went with what the defense gave her. The original plan was to feed a pass at the front of the net to Gaby Hamburger, but it never materialized, and instead opened enough space for Kelleher to operate.
River Hill capped Wednesday’s contest scoring seven of the final 11 goals after facing a 5-3 deficit with five minutes left of the first half. They also had to alter their free-flowing, transition-centered offense around a choppy, whistle-heavy pace.
“The only thing we can control is what we do,” said Hawks coach Jay Bond. “We can’t control what the refs call. No more swinging, no more checking. Play straight up body, get the ball, run our offense. We have to really sell out on the draw, get the ball, and control the game. That was the real focus: Get the ball and control the game.”
Atholton’s Kelley Flynn, a Robert Morris University commit who returned to the field for the first time since suffering a concussion during basketball season, scored four goals in the first 20 minutes of the first half, providing hope for the Raiders (2-3 county, 2-7 overall).
“Her leadership on the field changes the momentum of the game,” Atholton coach Kelly McGrath said of Flynn. “We’re a very young team. We’re improving each game and each practice. Having her back was huge for the momentum and the atmosphere. … Even though it didn’t fall in our favor, we’re really proud of how far we’ve come this season.”
From that point on, Bond face-guarded the stalwart attack with Abbey Bae, and applied a double team when possible. Allie Margulis and Devon Filippone (two goals) concluded the final four minutes of the first half with one goal apiece to send a 5-5 tie into the break.
With more than a minute into the second half, Hamburger, who finished with a hat trick, netted a side-arm strike to give River Hill a 6-5 lead. About five minutes later, she finished her second goal of the evening off a free position shot to extend the Hawks’ lead to 7-5.
“We just realized that we started off a little slow, me especially, and I realized in the second half, I had to pick it up and did what I could to help the team,” Hamburger said.
The Raiders countered with two quick goals from Ella Farris and Flynn to lock it at 7-7 at the 13 minute mark, but Hamburger put River Hill ahead 8-7 with her third score.
After River Hill put another goal on the board to make it 9-7 with less than five minutes left, Paige Gryski and Christianna Kelley delivered emphatic strikes at the 2:01 and 1:19 marks to create a 20-second long stalemate at 9-9 before Kelleher found the back of the net.
Kate Essman, Kelly Midas and Gracie Seabold added one goal apiece for the Hawks. Olivia Chory contributed with one goal for the Raiders. Atholton goaltender Maddy Eaton recorded eight saves.
The Hawks outshot the Raiders, 20-19, and will face a brutal trek in the upcoming week and a half with Howard, Glenelg and Marriotts Ridge on deck.
“We came out really strong, and had bumps in the road, but I feel like now, we’re coming together,” Kelleher said. “And realizing, let’s step it up. Let’s reach our potential.”