The biggest strength of the undefeated River Hill girls soccer team is how well the players understand their respective roles.
In the No. 2 Hawks' playoff run, senior forward Michaela Hennessy has happily been the star.
After providing the game-winning goals in the previous two games to help capture the Class 3A East region, Hennessy was at it again in Saturday's state semifinal, breaking through with the all-important first goal midway through the second half and adding two assists to lead the Hawks to a 3-0 win over defending state champion Huntingtown from Calvert County.
River Hill (18-0) will next face No. 6 C. Milton Wright next week at UMBC in a bid to win the program's eighth state title. The state title games are set to run from Thursday through Saturday with exact dates and times yet to be determined.
Getting there didn't come easy, with neither team willing to back down most of the game.
After senior midfielder Katie Arensmeier won space down the right side, she sent a firm cross that was deflected to the far post toward Hennessy, who promptly finished with 20:48 to play. Sheridan Street scored shortly after that, and Arensmeier closed out the scoring in the final minutes.
No. 3 South River 4, Bowie 0: Junior forward Kacie Longo scored three goals to lead the Seahawks (17-2) to a comfortable win in the Class 4A semifinal at Richard Montgomery. South River will look to capture the program's third state title and first since 1997 when it takes on Bethesda-Chevy Chase in next week's championship at UMBC.
No. 6 C. Milton Wright 2, Urbana 1: Falling on late goals in the state semifinals at CCBC-Essex the past two seasons, including a 1-0 setback to the same Hawks last year, the senior-laden Mustangs (17-1-1) were not to be denied Saturday.
With goals in the first half from Kathy Kammerer and Liz Burgee, and then poised defense in protecting a one-goal lead throughout the second half, C. Milton Wright advanced to meet No. 2 River Hill (18-0) in next week's title game at UMBC.
The Mustangs took a 1-0 lead on a goal from Kammerer in the 10th minute and then appeared to get some breathing room when Burgee finished off another chance with 13:10 left in the first half for a 2-0 advantage. But the Hawks from Frederick County were quick to answer less than a minute later, earning a corner kick that was taken by Jenn Heflin and finished off in front by Jenny Marshall to cut the lead to 2-1.
In the final minutes of the second half, the Mustangs successfully defended three corner kicks, with Urbana pressing for the equalizer.
With All-Metro senior sweeper Abby Smucker out for the second half with a leg injury, fellow senior Kelsey Targarona moved to the middle and played well to help protect the advantage. Junior defender Katie Burgee made a big play late when she alertly cleared a header sent in by Marshall on the Hawks' final corner kick.
"They were a really physical team and I think we really stuck it out and played with a lot of heart. We have 10 seniors on the team and we really, really want this," Targarona said.
No. 15 Reservoir 5, Huntingtown 1: After surviving the tough Class 3A East region with an opening win on penalty kicks and the next two victories by a goal each, the Reservoir boys soccer team enjoyed a more comfortable triumph in Saturday's state semifinal against Huntingtown.
The No. 15 Gators fell behind after an early goal, but scored five unanswered goals for a 5-1 win at CCBC-Essex, sending them to next week's state title game. In search of the program's second state championship the first coming in 2010 Reservoir (12-6) will meet Urbana at UMBC.
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