The Bel Air girls soccer team got off to the start it was looking for in Saturday’s Class 3A state semifinal at Linganore, getting the game’s first goal just past the midway point of the first half.
The rest of the game, however, brought frustration for the No. 13 Bobcats.
The Lancers quickly responded, answering 31 seconds later with the tying goal. Then, with 7:28 to play before halftime, Linganore was awarded a penalty kick that was converted by Ashley Yurich. The Bobcats pressed for much of the second half, but the Linganore defense held its ground to send the Lancers to the championship game with a 2-1 win.
Bel Air, which captured the Upper Chesapeake Bay Athletic Conference Chesapeake Division and then the North region, finished the season 12-5. The Bobcats were making their fifth straight state tournament appearance, including a state crown in 2015.
Linganore, making its third title game in four years in a bid to bring home the program’s first crown, will meet Huntingtown — a 1-0 winner over No. 12 Atholton in Saturday’s other semifinal — at Loyola Maryland’s Ridley Athletic Complex next week. All the boys and girls championship games in the four classifications are set for Wednesday, Friday and Saturday with the schedule yet to be set.
“I couldn’t be prouder of the girls. Obviously, they faced some adversity out there that was out of their control, but everything that was in their control they really gave it their all,” said Bel Air assistant coach Jason Brooks, who was in charge with head coach Josh Ruggiero out of town to attend a wedding. “It came down to a couple plays that we could have handled a little better and we could have taken an opportunity or two to finish. We struggled with that a little bit, but that’s soccer.”
The game-changing moment came on the awarded penalty kick. Bel Air goalkeeper Jill Kozak collided with a Lancer while challenging for a ball sent into the penalty area.
“I saw a clear play that our goalie made that was clean,” Brooks said. “She had the right for the ball, took that right, and unfortunately the referee saw it differently.”
The Bobcats still had the second half to tie the game and went all out in trying to do so. After shots went high or wide or were turned away by strong play in goal from Linganore’s Madelyn Cunningham (six saves), they thought they finally tied it with less than seven minutes to play.
The Bobcats were awarded a rare free kick inside the box on a foul called on Cunningham, but it was an indirect kick and Lexi Kraemer’s shot from six yards went in. Because it did not touch a player first, the goal was disallowed.
Kraemer gave Bel Air a 1-0 lead off a set piece with 17:30 to play in the half. The Bobcats were awarded a free kick at the left edge of the box and Carolyn Doheny served an ideal ball to the middle for Kraemer, who got between two defenders and one-timed a shot from eight yards for the early advantage.
Haley Barge scored the goal less than a minute later off a feed from Nora Salter and then Yurich found the left side on her penalty kick to provide the difference.
Goals: L – Barge, Yurich; BA — Kraemer. Assists: L – Salter; BA – Doheny. Saves: L – Cunningham 6, BA — Kozak 2. Half: L, 2-1