In the nearly 40 years since Glenelg began its girls soccer program in 1982, the Gladiators had won six state titles and 10 region championships without a single county crown.
That all changed under the lights Friday night at Wilde Lake High School.
Kaila Spence found the net early in the first half and that proved to be all the scoring Glenelg needed to defeat Reservoir 1-0 for the breakthrough victory. In a year where COVID-19 pushed their fall season to the spring and seniors held their breath awaiting a return, Glenelg first-year coach Vincente D’Antuono was proud of his players.
“It was wonderful to have five seniors who led the team with a lot of positivity — a lot of encouragement,” D’Antuono said. “We have a range of kids, from freshman to seniors that looked out for one another. They were really looking forward to getting back to the field. It’s really what they’ve been living for these past few years.”
On the decisive score with 31:33 remaining in the opening half, Glenelg’s Tegan Swope made a high cross into the box. Spence then sifted through multiple defenders and played the ball following a number of caroms, kicking the ball through the top of the net for the goal.
“I thought [the shot] went over the post to be honest with you,” Swope said. “I went ‘Oh no’ and then, everyone was celebrating and I was like ‘Oh yeah we’re in this.’ So, it was exciting, definitely.”
Spence, a junior, said she had been waiting on a moment like this for her entire soccer career. When it arrived, she seized it.
“I can’t describe how much [it means] — I was not expecting at first to score anything, but I wanted to come out here for my teammates and win this game,” Spence said. “And we did that.”
While Spence’s goal put Glenelg in front, the Gladiators had several quality chances to increase their advantage. Glenelg had two additional near-goals, one in each half, disallowed on offsides calls.
In the second half, Glenelg senior Molly Nichols went down with a leg injury with 32:11 remaining. In her absence, the rest of the team picked up the pace and continued to put pressure on Reservoir.
Keeping the Gators out of the goal had a lot to do with the stout play of Glenelg goalie Kendall Castor and her defensive backline of Katie Ringer, Ava Montgomery and Megan Ball. It was Montgomery that made one of the biggest plays of the game in the 24th minute of the second half, kicking the ball off the goal line after it had slipped past a diving Castor.
The shutout goes down as the third of the playoffs for Glenelg (8-3-1) and the first time all year Reservoir (9-2) was held scoreless.
While the outcome wasn’t in Reservoir’s favor, coach Phil Ranker reflected on the season and how he felt lucky to have it, in light of the pandemic.
“Obviously, everyone wasn’t even sure we would get a game in, let alone an actual season,” Ranker said. “I appreciate everything the county did to get us out here. I know it was a big push to give the girls an opportunity to get out here and they enjoyed it. A lot of them told me it was the happiest they’d been in the last year and a half in this last month in a half.”