Two days before Halloween, the Wilde Lake girls soccer team exorcised its biggest demon.
After losing to River Hill in each of the last three postseasons, the Wildecats beat the host Hawks, 1-0, on Tuesday in the MPSSAA Class 3A East Region II championship.
“I’m so proud of these girls,” said Wilde Lake head coach Megan Shea. “The past three years, I’ve given the same after-game speech. … It was awesome to be able to say some of the same things in that speech today, but to also be able to say we got the win.”
The region title is Wilde Lake’s first since 2015, when the Wildecats were state runner-ups. The triumph is also the second over River Hill this season, as Wilde Lake (8-4-1) topped the Hawks on Sept. 24 for its first win over the three-time defending Class 2A champs since 2015.
“I was watching last year in the stands,” said sophomore goalie Hannah Lowry. “Even watching last year, it was heartbreaking to see the loss. It feels amazing to get the win back.”
Entering the season, the biggest question mark regarding the Wildecats was whether they could replace all-county players Julianne Bonner, Lily Dunbar and Jenna Hutchison — all of whom are now playing Division I soccer. The answer, now, is yes.
“I know we lost a lot of girls, and there were other teams that lost a lot of girls from last season, too,” Shea said. “I think a lot of teams were going through that process of finding players who would step up, and I’m so proud of my team for being able to step up into those roles.”
In previous seasons, the Wildecats would go onto play Mt. Hebron, which defeated county champion Marriotts Ridge on Tuesday in the 3A East Region I title game — previously called Section I. Now, though, all eight region champions will be re-seeded by regular season winning percentage. This opens up the opportunity for two Howard County teams — like Mt. Hebron and Wilde Lake — to play each other in a state semifinal or championship.
Jillian Ingram scored the only goal of the game at No. 1 River Hill (9-4-1). After a throw-in, Ashlyn Bonner passed to Ingram, who fired a shot from the left edge of the 18 into the upper-right 90 to give the No. 2-seeded Wildecats a 1-0 lead midway through the first half. The goal gives Ingram a team-leading nine this season.
“Jillian has probably the hardest shot on our team,” Shea said. “Her issues in the past have been about controlling it. When she came in as a freshman she was one of my favorite players, because she was so scrappy and so speedy, and to see her put it all together this year as a junior has been awesome.”
An overlooked part of the game, however, occurred a few minutes before Ingram’s goal. Off a River Hill corner kick, the Hawks’ Jamie Caine connected on a header that would’ve found the back of the net, if not for Wilde Lake’s Olivia Lancaster’s astute positioning. Lancaster was able to clear the ball a mere inches before it would have been ruled a goal.
“Olivia has been great for us this year,” Shea said. “She is great, because she’s so reliable back there, and that’s how she saved that goal. She knows what her job is, and she knows she’s that last line of defense.”
For the second time this season, Wilde Lake sophomore goalie Hannah Lowry has shut out the Hawks. Lowry, who tallied eight saves in the win, was on the junior varsity team to start the season.
“She’s been working so hard this year,” Shea said. “She’s the first one at practice all the time. She’s really put in the work, and I’m really happy to see that hard work paid off.”
Lowry said the key to both shutouts was the defensive line, led by seniors Angie Geralis and Nicole Wright.
“I can’t take credit for the shutout,” Lowry said. “The defense has done so much. I can’t say enough about them. They had so many tackles today. Some people don’t notice the defenders as much as they should, but I definitely do.”
The eight region champions will be re-seeded. The opponent, site and time of Wilde Lake’s state quarterfinal game are to be determined.
Wilde Lake 1, River Hill 0
Goals: WL — Jillian Ingram.
Assists: WL — Ashlyn Bonner.
Saves: WL — Hannah Lowry 8.
Mt. Hebron 0, Marriotts Ridge 0
The Vikings (10-4) won the penalty-kick shootout, 3-2, over the county champion Mustangs (11-3) to claim the MPSSAA Class 3A East Region I crown. Mt. Hebron will be re-seeded along with the other seven region champions.
PK goals: MH — Julia Noppenberger, Lexi Croft, Riley Benson.
Saves: MH — Ainsley Sowers 14.