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Mt. Hebron girls soccer capitalizes on set pieces, downs Long Reach to open playoffs

Mt. Hebron's girls soccer team can thank Howard for helping them beat Long Reach in the team's first round 3A East Region playoff game Friday night.

The Vikings scored two goals on free kicks, along with another on a corner, to help defeat the Lightning, 4-1, in a physical game under the lights.

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On the team's third and fourth goals, Mt. Hebron (6-9) used a few of the tricks they learned while playing against Howard earlier this season on free kicks, to put the game out of reach.

The third score started from 30-yards out when senior defender and captain Nia Crump passed a free kick to the left of the wall of Long Reach defenders and found senior forward Kelly Richards streaking in front.

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On a soft touch, Richards drilled the floating ball into the left-side netting to give Mt. Hebron a 3-0 lead with 25 minutes left in the game.

"As soon as I saw [Howard use that play against us], a light bulb goes off and you're like, 'Oh, we're definitely borrowing that,'" said Vikings coach Tim Deppen. "So it's something that we started practicing Tuesday. … In two days we were able to get enough reps to make it look really pretty."

"That's all we did yesterday [at practice]," Crump said of the free kicks. "I was just happy it paid off."

Less than two minutes later, from about the same spot to the right of the goal, Crump had other ideas on executing a free kick.

This time, she blasted it over the wall of defenders and just under the crossbar for a 4-0 lead.

"I practiced that yesterday," Crump said. "I just decided to go for it and it went in."

While the late goals off free kicks were nice, the top priority for Mt. Hebron coming into the game was scoring first.

The Vikings executed that part of the game plan well, scoring six minutes in on a corner kick from junior midfielder Sorana Larson.

From the left side, Larson bent the cross to the near post and Richards blocked Long Reach senior goalkeeper Jayme Grohe. By the time Grohe caught the ball, she was in her own goal.

Crump said getting the first goal was "so important. Game plan, right there."

Richards said it's not the first time Larson has scored from a corner kick. In fact, she has scored in the same fashion in each of her varsity seasons.

"She was talking about it in practice, how she hasn't done one yet," Richards said, "so it's just a coincidence that she did it today."

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Mt. Hebron's second goal came with 14 minutes left in the first half when senior midfielder Jen Giles sent a long through-ball up the middle to sophomore midfielder Elise Mahoney, who beat Grohe to the ball and slid it past her on the first bounce.

Although the season came to an end for the Lightning, coach Erik Sandersen thinks his young team will have a lot to look forward to next year.

"The future is really bright for the team," Sandersen said. "There's only three seniors that were starters moving out, so it should be a bright next few years."

The young talent showcased itself late when freshman midfielder Jessie Lee scored with a nice right-footed strike from 15-yards out with six minutes remaining.

Ultimately, it just wasn't enough.

The Vikings will play at Poly in Baltimore City on Oct. 28 in the regional-quarterfinal round. Mt. Hebron defeated the Parrots in the playoffs last season in the same round.

"I know they have talent, and I know they have athleticism on their side," Deppen said of Poly. "Hopefully we're the more skilled team and I'm pretty confident we'll come out with a win."

Other score:

Marriotts Ridge 10, St. Charles 0 (2A South)

Goals: MR – Boulin 3, You 2, Zadjura, Evans, M. Lee, Larson, Held.

Assists: MR – McGann 2, Price 2, Larson, Plano.

Saves: MR – Jones 2; SC – Cleavland 8, Harley 5.

Half: 7-0 MR.

Centennial 11, Digital Harbor 0 (3A East)

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