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Wetzel's double-overtime goal lifts River Hill girls soccer to 3A East title

River Hill freshman Carly Wetzel may not have been a part of the Hawks recent back-to-back state championship teams, but when she saw the ball coming toward her from senior Alex Hamer in double overtime, she knew it was her time to contribute to the winning-tradition.

With only six minutes left until penalty kicks would decide the game, Wetzels header into the left side of the goal gave the Hawks a 2-1 win over visiting Centennial in the 3A East regional championship game on Monday night.

I was just in the zone, Wetzel said. I thought like, ok this is it, we have to do it now. I thought it was going over me, but you just got to go for it.

The freshman stepped up, River Hill coach Brian Song said. She was mad because in the first half, she goes coach, I shouldve had a shot on goal, she was really down on herself. I said hey look, youll get an opportunity in the second half. Sure enough, she had a great header, and boom.

Wetzel, who has played in every minute of every game this season and has two game-winning headers, said she feels the pressure of trying to win a championship, but doesnt let it get to her.

Its just a tradition here to work your hardest, go all out and win every game, she said. I get nervous a lot, but you have to shake it off. I try to do that and stay confident and play my game.

The Hawks took a 1-0 lead in the 25th minute when Hamers cross from the right side to the far post found a wide-open Jen Voyton, who headed the ball into the right corner of the goal.

But late in the second half, the Eagles put a third forward up the field and started to pressure the River Hill defense up the middle.

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Song said that in each of the Hawks playoff games the defense bent but didnt break. The back line, which had not allowed a goal in either of its first two playoff games, finally broke at an inopportune time – with only six minutes left in regulation.

The Eagles, after possessing the ball and challenging the River Hill goal for several minutes, found the back of the net when sophomore Jasmine McCrees shot to the right side of the goal from the top of the box tied the game and forced overtime.

We fell apart for that five-minute stretch. We lost focus. Song said. They have some fast girls so they like to play kick and run, and we fell into that trap.

But the Hawks regrouped and started to settle into their style of play again. The final set piece proved to be the difference.

Centennial fell to the Hawks in overtime for the second consecutive year in the regional championship game.

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River Hill is one of the luckiest teams Ive ever played, said Eagles coach Steven Baxter. Second year running ... we had chance after chance after chance inside the six [yard box] and couldnt score.

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The Eagles started the game strong with several shots on target, including one that was swatted away from the top-right corner of the goal by River Hill keeper Julia Caine in the 14th minute.

Centennial senior Anna Mitchell, who has not played since injuring her left ankle about four weeks ago, played the final 15 minutes of the second half and overtime with a noticeable limp. But her presence made an immediate impact on the game.

We really were able to possess the ball in their end [late in the second half], Baxter said. For the last 10 minutes of the game, all the way through until they scored we were actually playing really well.

The Eagles will return all but three players to next years team, and Baxter said he looks forward to the teams future.

River Hill, which is looking for its third consecutive 3A state title, will play the winner of Bel Air and Westminster on Saturday in the 3A state semifinals.

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