The Arundel girls soccer team's priority in Tuesday's Anne Arundel County championship game against rival Broadneck was a fast start.
The No. 3 Wildcats also spent extra time in practice defending corner kicks and long throws, which have been reliable sources of offense for the No. 2 Bruins throughout the season.
It all paid off.
With senior All-Metro forward Clarissa Kirsch-Downs providing the offense with a ninth-minute goal and the defense holding firm the rest of the way, Arundel earned a 1-0 win to capture the program's second county championship.
It's the second time in as many weeks the Wildcats accomplished something no other team could against Broadneck. Last Wednesday, the Wildcats earned a 1-1 draw against the Bruins, who went into the game with a 12-0 mark. On Tuesday, Arundel (13-1-1) handed the Bruins (12-1-2) their first loss. The reward was a county crown.
“It's really big,” said Arundel sweeper Jenna Surdick, who sparked the Wildcats' defensive effort. “Last year, we were in the county championship and lost to South River, so this year we're definitely really excited we finally got a win. We were determined going into this game that we were going to win. We play as a family — that's what we play for — so we were very confident.”
After falling behind by a goal in last week's meeting, the Wildcats were determined to start better Tuesday. They were rewarded quickly when Kirsch-Downs collected a well-played through ball from Becky Frost and finished off a chance from 10 yards for the early 1-0 advantage.
For most of the remaining time, the Bruins pressed for the equalizer. They took 16 shots, but most were challenged by the Wildcats defense, which got fine play from Kayleigh Moody, Rebekah Schrier, Kelly Cottington and Surdick. Some of the shots went high, others wide, and the six that were on goal were capably handled by goalkeeper Tiffany Dayton-Hegedus.
Shortly after Broadneck's Tayler Green sent the Bruins' last chance high, the final whistle blew and the Wildcats celebrated their first title since a 1-0 win over Chesapeake in 1996.
“We're going to enjoy the win tonight and then get back to work tomorrow,” Arundel coach Laura Coe said. “We have a [Class 4A East region] bye this week, and then we play the winner between North County and Glen Burnie, so it's back to work.”
Arundel and Broadneck could meet a third time in the playoffs in a stacked East region that also includes Severna Park, ranked No. 7, and defending state champion South River, ranked eighth.
The Bruins got strong efforts from forwards Ellie McNulty and Bri Harris and freshman defender Haley Small.