Urbana entered its field hockey semifinal against River Hill with only four goals allowed all season.
The Hawks from Frederick County allowed their fifth goal of the season Wednesday, but it didn’t matter. Urbana, led by an athletic midfield and three different goal scorers, defeated River Hill, 3-1, to advance to the program’s first state championship game.
“This was a great win,” said Urbana coach Molly Stuart, who leads the Hawks alongside her mother, A.J. Stuart. “Our attack is phenomenal. The meat of our team, though, is our midfield. They played great today.”
Urbana (14-1) will play the winner of Westminster on Saturday in the MPSSAA Class 3A championship at Washington College.
“I am so happy, because my mom started the program at Urbana (in 1995), and she finally has gotten to the state championship she deserves,” Molly Stuart said.
Despite the loss, River Hill coach Shelly Chamness was proud of how her team executed against a talented Urbana squad, which has outscored its opponents 81-5 this season.
“The passing looked amazing today,” Chamness said. “As a coach, one of my favorite things to see was us being able to pass against a team like that.”
Neither team scored in the first 24 minutes of the game at Paint Branch High School in Burtonsville. The Hawks from Howard County controlled possession for the first 15 minutes of the contest but couldn’t capitalize on the two penalty corners they earned.
Urbana then scored the lone goal of the first half with about five minutes before halftime. River Hill freshman goalie Jocelyn Baker, who tallied five saves in the loss, saved an Urbana shot, but the scrum that followed the deflection ended with the ball squeaking away from River Hill’s defense and right to the stick of Urbana’s Kasey Beach. The goal was Beach’s 11th of the season.
“They were a really strong team,” said River Hill senior Quinn Kindbom, who was often preventing Urbana’s Maggie Goodwin (27 goals and 19 assists) from scoring. “It was fun to play against the great competition.”
Urbana came out of the second half firing, as Stuart’s Hawks scored about two minutes into the period. Kylie Caretti scored her 15th goal of the season to put Urbana up 2-0. Goodwin’s shot was saved by Baker and deflected to an open Caretti.
“Lucky for us, we’re a second-half team,” Molly Stuart said. “We always come out stronger in the second half. We kind of get it together and make the adjustments we need to make. That was a key goal for us.”
The goal was crucial because River Hill found the back of the cage less than a minute later. Freshman Puja Nanjappa flicked a reverse chip into the circle, and fellow freshman Maddie Vasilios lifted the ball past Urbana’s goalie to cut River Hill’s deficit in half.
“After the second goal, we came back and scored,” Chamness said. “We still had a good chance. We never gave up. They kept playing every second. I’m so proud of the teamwork.”
River Hill (10-5-1) earned four corners in the next 15 minutes but couldn’t tie the game. Urbana’s Maddy Hillman then scored with less than 10 minutes remaining to seal the victory.
Unlike most teams that advance to the state semifinals, River Hill has more freshmen in the starting lineup (three) than seniors (two).
“The way everyone pulled together was amazing,” Chamness said. “It’s not that we didn’t have the skill to start the season, but we’ve come such a long way.”
Chamness was thankful for her six-player senior class, Lindsey Smith, Ashlee Buscher, Kelly Key, Maryum Nassar, Sara Sharp, Bridgette Rodell and Kindbom. Specifically, Chamness said Kindbom is a “big hole to fill” next season.
“Quinn has been with me since her freshman year," Chamness said. “That’s always special. It’s not often you get a girl for four years. Quinn has played a major role in every game for all four years. This year, she has been playing with amazing passion.”
Kindbom, who is committed to play at Indiana University, led the Hawks with 16 goals and 10 assists this season. She’s excited to follow the young team when she’s in Bloomington, Indiana.
“This was a great season,” Kindbom said. “We had a lot of great girls on the team and a lot of passion. … I’m really excited for where they’re going to go. Puja and Maddie really make a difference in the midfield, and they’re going to do amazing things.”
Urbana 3, River Hill 1
Goals: U — Maddy Hillman, Kylie Caretti, Kasey Beach; RH — Maddie Vailios.