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Comeback lifts Oakland Mills girls soccer to playoff win over Hammond

Down 2-0 in the late stages of the first half against Hammond in the opening round of the 2A South Region girls soccer playoffs Thursday night, Oakland Mills could have easily panicked.

Instead, the Scorpions rose to the challenge.

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Dominating possession and scoring three unanswered goals, Oakland Mills came back to beat the visiting Golden Bears, 3-2.

Oakland Mills had not seen much success this season, winning only one county game —against the same Hammond squad. On a chilly night under the lights with the stakes high, the Scorpions achieved something to smile about.

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"It means a lot for this group," said first-year Oakland Mills coach Sam Haddad. "We've struggled for the first couple of months. The girls got used to each other and we put a lot of tactical stuff that they're starting to get toward the end of the year. So our results at the end of the year have been much better."

"It doesn't matter what the score is, we just like to have fun and be competitive," added junior forward and captain Kat Stockford. "And to win a playoff game is amazing. It's a great feeling.

The Scorpions found themselves in a two-goal hole after a score by Hammond sophomore midfielder Gabi Abel with 11 minutes left in the first half.

Haddad told his team that they have come back from similar deficits this season, and to play their best without looking at the scoreboard.

It not only worked, but worked quickly. Senior midfielder and captain Courtney Rapp scored 40 seconds after the Bears' second goal, beating Hammond senior goalkeeper Brigid Mangan with a powerful shot across the goal to the right-bottom corner with a defender on her hip.

The goal "gave them confidence that they could come back," Haddad said.

The score resulted from a combination play with Stockford, something Haddad has been working on with them all season long.

"We talk about them having combination plays," Haddad said. "One will be a decoy, and the other one will set the other one up, and it worked perfectly on this play."

The game-tying goal came with a little more controversy. The referee called a Hammond defender for a handball in the box, giving Oakland Mills a penalty kick with 4:30 remaining in the first half.

Stockford slid the shot into the left side of the net to tie the game, 2-2.

"I was actually pretty calm," said Stockford. "I'm very good at PK's. I practice them off the field all the time. … I practice PK's every time in case this happens. In a playoff game, where it matters the most, and I just took a deep breath and I placed it."

Stockford's biggest contribution to the victory came in the second half.

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Less than 30-seconds into the half, Stockford riffled the eventual game-winning shot from 35-yards out, beating the unsuspecting Mangan off her line. The shot sailed into the top part of the net and gave the Scorpions a 3-2 lead.

"I don't think I've ever scored from that far out," Stockford said.

"We said we were going to come into the second half and immediately try to get a goal," Haddad said, "and so if you have a shot from the outside, take it. And she executed."

Hammond had their chances to tie the game late, including a shot that rang off the crossbar in stoppage time. Ultimately, the team fell short and their season came to an end.

"I thought it was an evenly matched game," said Hammond coach Chris Reagle. "We came out with a 2-0 lead and unfortunately the momentum switched. … We literally battled to the end."

A team that started eight sophomores and a freshman and will return every starter but Mangan, Hammond already has its sights set on next year.

"We're absolutely excited about our future," Reagle said. "We have a lot to build off of and this kind of effort, if we carry through next year, we're going to have a pretty good year."

Sophomore midfielder Katie Lastova scored from 15-yards out with 16 minutes left in the first half, and Abel's goal on a great pullback and shot into the bottom-left of the goal from the top of the box gave the Bears their 2-0 lead.

Oakland Mills will travel to play top-seeded Calvert on Oct. 28.

Other scores:

Reservoir 2, Glenelg 0

Anna Janush scored both goals, each on free kicks, to lift the Gators to the opening round victory. Reservoir now advances into a match-up with top-seeeded River Hill on Oct. 28 at 7 p.m.

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