Throughout the 80 minutes of Wednesday night's Class 4A North quarterfinal against Westminster, the Perry Hall girls soccer team showed it could cover a lot of ground.
The No. 10 Gators pieced together an impressive early goal, then defended without flaw as the No. 12 Owls made a formidable push. When it was over, Perry Hall earned a 3-0 win at Honeygo Regional Park that sends the Gators to the semifinals to face the Catonsville.
Perry Hall improves to 10-3-2 on the season, winning its first game after a tough 1-0 loss to rival Eastern Tech in the Baltimore County championship on Oct. 23.
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Honeygo Regional Park, 9033 Honeygo Blvd, Perry Hall, MD 21128, USA
Following Wednesday's win, midfielder Sofia Perzan, who scored the first goal, and central defender Kara Taylor, who anchored the strong play in back, were asked what the fine performance meant.
They responded in unison: "It's a good feeling." Taylor quickly added: "Especially after last week. It's reassuring for us."
In the 13th minute, Perzan provided the Gators a lead they would not surrender. Working the right side, she ran on to a short through ball sent in by Elizabeth Fitch and promptly fired a shot to the lower far corner from 12 yards.
The Owls (9-3-1) picked up their play considerably for much of the remainder of the first half and into the second half, but the Gators didn't budge. They forced the visitors to mostly shoot from far away — goalkeeper Emily Shandruk confidently handled nine shots — and when the Owls did get closer, they were tightly marked. A five-second stretch early in the second half showed the Owls' frustration, as Ariana Rinda and Mackenzie Murray both had shots blocked by defenders inside eight yards.
Supporting Shandruk and Taylor in back were Aniya Flanagan, Abby Dunkerton, Taylor Coles and Hannah Eisemann. Taylor said steady communication was the key to the Gators' success on defense.
"You just got to cover each other, know where you're going, and if someone commits, you got to cover for them and get the ball as soon as possible," she said.
With Westminster sending more players forward to try to tie, Lauren Hall gave Perry Hall a 2-0 advantage with 18 minutes to play, scoring in front after Owls goalie Alayna Morris (seven saves) turned away a hard shot sent in by Perzan. Melanie Garrison scored off a feed from Megan Erpenstein to make it 3-0 in the final minutes.
It's the third straight year that Westminster's season ends with a loss to Perry Hall. The Owls came into Wednesday averaging nearly four goals per game, but they weren't able to break through.
"We just didn't take advantage of the opportunities we had. There was a couple in front of the goal that on another night would have gone in, but not tonight," Westminster coach Bird Brown said.. "I'm disappointed for the seniors. Unfortunately, this is what's going to define their season, but they really had a great season and are some of the best we'll see at Westminster."
Class 4A North
No. 10 Perry Hall 3, No. 12 Westminster 0
Goals: PH – Perzan, Hall, Garrison.
Assists: PH – Fitch, Erpenstein
Saves: W – Morris 7; PH – Shandruk 9.
Half: PH, 1-0