A few dozen fans arrived late to the Wilde Lake-Mt. Hebron girls soccer state quarterfinal game on Saturday.
Naturally, not everyone will be on time, and the low-scoring sport — like playoff soccer can be — isn’t one in which tardiness is often penalized.
It was on Saturday, though.
The game was virtually over only a few minutes after it started, as Wilde Lake scored three goals in the first six minutes en route to a 3-1 victory over the host Vikings in the MPSSAA Class 3A quarterfinals.
“We talked before the game how important it would be to come out fast,” said Wilde Lake head coach Megan Shea. “Never in my wildest dreams did I think there would be that many goals in the first [five] minutes, but I think our sheer mental toughness came into play in the beginning of the game.”
Gia Johnson, Aicha Wilson and Jillian Ingram all scored before everyone could take their seats, and then Hannah Lowry (12 saves) and the rest of the Wildecats’ defense spent the remainder of the game protecting the lead.
“Our coach told us during warmups that we weren’t talking at all, and we told her that we were focusing and channeling our energy,” Wilson said. “We knew they were a good team, so we were trying to keep our composure, and it paid off with the way we started."
“All three of them have had huge seasons this year,” Shea said. “We’ve been looking all season for who would step up, and they all have. Great players play great in big games.”
No. 5 Wilde Lake (9-4-1) will play No. 1 Chesapeake — a 1-0 winner in its quarterfinal game against No. 8 Rockville — in the state semifinals on Saturday, Nov. 9, at Linganore High School. The state semifinal berth is the Wildecats’ first since 2015. The time of the game is yet to be determined.
The win for Wilde Lake over No. 4 Mt. Hebron served as a bit of revenge for the Wildecats’ 3-0 loss to the Vikings on Oct. 11. Wilson, one of the most dynamic players in Howard County due to her speed and physicality on the right wing, was out with an injury in the regular-season defeat. On Saturday, the junior waited only 90 seconds to utilize her speed and score to give Wilde Lake (9-4-1) a 1-0 lead.
“Obviously it’s very important to have her in the lineup,” said Johnson. “It was hard not having her (against Mt. Hebron in the regular season), but we’re glad to have her back.”
“Aicha is incredibly fast, she has a super long throw in, she’s confident and she’s tough,” Shea said. “But what’s also a positive is that other teams know how good she is, and they have to respect that. She opens up some other players, because other teams have to respect Aicha’s talent.”
Jillian Ingram then put the Wildecats up 2-0 on a corner kick for her 10th goal of the season. Ingram, a right-footed junior, took the set piece from the left corner and hooked the kick over Mt. Hebron’s goalie and into the right side of the goal. The goal was a rare sight, as corner kicks are usually sent into the box with hopes of a header or deflection.
“Jillian has the strongest shot on our team,” Shea said. “She’s really been able to harness her power this year and get good accuracy on her shots. To see her curl that corner kick in, I was blown away.”
A minute later, Johnson, a sophomore, ended the Wildecats’ early game scoring barrage with a goal in the 6th minute. Leah Williams sent a through ball to Johnson, who split two defenders and scored on a one-on-one with the Vikings goalie to put the Lake up 3-0.
Aside from a Mt. Hebron goal in the 20th minute, Wilde Lake’s defense remained strong. The 3-0 advantage led to a less aggressive strategy from the Wildecats offense. Lowry, a sophomore, continued her solid season with a dozen saves, while defenders Olivia Lancaster, Angie Geralis and Nicole Wright all had several key tackles to prevent scoring opportunities. The Vikings’ goal was a 45-yard boot from Lexi Croft on a free kick. Her high-arching kick went over the leap of Lowry.
Mt. Hebron head coach Tim Deppen said he “couldn’t be more proud” of his eight-player senior class, which consists of Ainsley Sowers, Natalie Lewis, Maddie Hammond, Lexi Croft, Julia Noppenberger, Alexa Dragisics, Mia Flack and Anna Hofmann.
“In our huddle at the end there I wanted to focus on the seniors,” Deppen said. “I’m so proud of them and the captains. The standard and the legacy they’re leaving behind for the future classes is amazing. They have so much to be proud of. We’ve won two straight region championships...and that’s the expectation now.”
The win over the Vikings is the second time Wilde Lake has knocked a team that beat it in the regular season out of the playoffs. The Wildecats defeated Reservoir to open their postseason after falling to them in early October, while defeating River Hill, 1-0, for the second time of the year in the region finals.
“We did not have a smooth-sailing season like the last two years, but I think that’s been better for us,” Shea said. “We’ve had younger players forced into that spotlight to learn to be mentally tough.”
Wilde Lake 3, Mt. Hebron 1
Goals: WL — Aicha Wilson, Jillian Ingram, Gia Johnson; MH — Lexi Croft.
Assists: WL —
Saves: WL — Hannah Lowry 12; MH — Ainsley Sowers 6.
Latest Howard County Sports
Halftime: 3-1, WL