For Reservoir senior Mia Smiraglia, Friday night’s game against River Hill was a long time coming.
The pandemic caused the start of the fall season, which typically begins in September, to be postponed until Friday.
In addition to the unusual timing of the season, though, Smiraglia and her fellow seniors on the Reservoir girls soccer team were also excited to face off against a team they had never beaten. In fact, the Gators haven’t scored a goal against perennial powerhouse River Hill, which won three straight state titles prior to last season, since their last win over the Hawks in 2016.
That’s why Smiraglia said her goal with five minutes remaining in regulation that put Reservoir past River Hill, 2-1, was extra special.
“This is amazing,” said Smiraglia. “I woke up so hyped today. We’ve been saying the past few days how important this game is to set the tone for the season. It feels great to get it done.”
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Reservoir head coach Phil Ranker said his players were “amped up” for the game against River Hill, and he said it was fitting that one of his seniors scored the game-winning goal.
“The girls were ready for this one,” Ranker said. “I’m so happy for Mia. All my seniors have been with me for four years; it’s such a phenomenal senior class.”
Mother nature didn’t make opening night easy on soccer teams returning to the pitch Friday. The 10-mile-per-hour winds in Fulton made the 34-degree weather feel like 25.
But Smiraglia and her teammates didn’t care.
“Coach [Ranker] said to play every game like it was our last because we don’t know how many we’ll have in this crazy season,” Smiraglia said. “It was amazing to get on the field. We don’t care that it’s cold or that it’s a different kind of season.”
Neither team scored for the first 70 minutes, as River Hill’s Caroline Duffy and Reservoir’s Lizzie Dudzinski were both stout in goal. Duffy, a second-team All-County pick as a sophomore last season, had eight saves in the first half alone and 11 overall.
“Caroline played very well. Both of their goals we had mental breakdowns on defense,” said River Hill head coach Brian Song. “[Reservoir] deserved to win. They played better at the end. We’ll clean up those mental lapses moving forward.”
“Duffy is a stud,” Ranker said. “It takes something special to beat her, so to get two on her, I’m happy with that.”
The low-scoring affair changed course quickly, though, when Gators junior Karis Turner and Hawks junior Ara Omitowoju traded goals within a minute of each other.
The speedy Turner got behind the defense, controlled the floated pass by Sam Gucchait and fired a left-footed shot past Duffy to give Reservoir a 1-0 lead. Turner, regarded by coaches as one of the most talented players in the county, was an All-County selection as a freshman but then missed her entire sophomore campaign due to an injury.
“I can’t express how thankful I am to have this season, especially since it’s my junior year,” said Turner. “I don’t think I could take missing two seasons in a row. Coming back from the injury, I’m ready to go, and I’m ready to step up for my team.”
The Hawks responded immediately, though, when Maddie Florenzo and Omitowoju had a two-on-one against a Gators defender. Florenzo made the defender and goalkeeper commit and then led Omitowoju, who easily found the back of the net.
Five minutes later, the Gators scored their game-winning goal off a corner kick. Gucchait’s corner was deflected right to Smiraglia, who controlled the ball and kicked it through traffic to give the Gators the season-opening triumph.
“This is a great way to start off the season,” Turner said. “We’re going to keep pushing, and we’re not going to let anything stop us.”
Both teams are on the road Tuesday. River Hill plays at Hammond, while Reservoir travels to Long Reach.
Reservoir 2, River Hill 1
Goals: Re — Karis Turner, Mia Smiraglia; RH — Ara Omitowoju
Assists: Re — Sam Gucchait 2; RH — Maddie Florenzo
Saves: Re — Lizzie Dudzinski 4; RH — Caroline Duffy 11
Goals: A — Alyssa Clearfield 1, Catherine Cole 2, Taylor Lau 1, Allison Lubitz 2, Sarah Saula 1.
Assists: A — Alyssa Clearfield 1, Molly Flynn 1, Allison Lubitz 1, Alexis Park 1
Saves: A — Sam Roerty 3; Ha — Caroline Shreier 7, Brooke Kohlheim 4
Howard 2, Oakland Mills 0
The Lions grabbed the lead in the 38th minute as senior defender Jillian Lewis found junior midfielder Sydney Weisfeld. Howard goalie Katie Hertz later made her only save of the game with four minutes remaining in regulation to keep her team ahead. Then, on the ensuing counterattack in the 77th minute, senior midfielder Danielle Campbell was fouled and converted a direct kick from 25 yards out to create the final two-goal margin of victory.
Goals: Ho — Sydney Weisfeld, Danielle Campbell.
Assist: Ho — Jillian Lewis.
Saves: Ho - Katie Hertz 1, Caroline Otchet 1
Long Reach 2, Wilde Lake 2
The Lightning built a 2-0 lead in the first half before the Wildecats battled back to earn the draw. Officials decided not to allow the two teams to play overtime, leaving the game to end in a tie with the score tied at the end of regulation.
Goals: LR — Payton Holmes, Samantha Babik; WL — Sophia El Marji 2
Assists: LR — Carly Vincent; WL — Olivia Lancaster, Aicha Wilson
Saves: LR — Kailey Leibe 4; WL — Hannah Lowry 6
Marriotts Ridge 2, Mt. Hebron 0
Megan Wagner scored the first goal in the first half by launching an accurate shot over the head of Mt Hebron’s keeper, Elaina Klein. A second goal came minutes later as Wagner found open Marriotts Ridge forward Jordyn Choe racing towards the goal. Choe placed a low right-footed shot into the left corner.
Mustangs’ keeper Caroline Albert had multiple spectacular saves in the first and second half to help maintain the lead and the shutout.
Goals: MR — Megan Wagner, Jordyn Choe.
Assists: MR — Megan Wagner, Morgan Lee.
Saves: MR — Caroline Albert 7; MH — Elaina Klein 10.
Coach Vincente D’Antuono won his varsity head coaching debut, as senior Tegan Swope scored the game-winning goal for the Gladiators with 1:40 left in the game off an assist from senior Sarah Lathrop.
Stephanie Lathrop scored the first goal of the game midway through the first half for Glenelg off an assist from Hannah Roberti. Centennial answered five minutes later after creating a turnover in Glenelg’s defensive third, with Callie Lascasas scoring the goal.
Goals: G — Stephanie Lathrop, Tegan Swope; C — Callie Lascasas.
Assists: G — Hannah Roberti, Sarah Lathrop.
Saves: G — Kendall Castor 14; Tegan Swope 1; C — Rebecca Bianchini 3, Olivia Jackson 3.
Howard 1, Oakland Mills 0
Karl Quist-Therson earned a penalty kick in the first half and Robbie Ryerson buried the shot for the game’s only goal. Howard goalie Luke Ryerson made a diving save with seven minutes to go on an Oakland Mills penalty kick to hold the lead and secure the shutout.
Saves: Ho — Banga 1, Ryerson 3
Goals: Ha — Jason Fuentes 2, Isaac Owasu 1, Joel Rojo San Martin 1; A — N/A.
Assists: Ha — Fuentes 1, San Martin 1, Owasu 1
Goals: C — Kevin Salazar 2, Bryson Baker 1, Kodee Karcher 1; G — N/A
Assists: C — Kodee Karcher 2, Cameron Grable 2.
Saves: C — Parker Gerrity 8; G — N/A.
Reservoir 2, River Hill 1
After a scoreless first half, the Gators scored twice in the early stages of the second half and then held on late to knock off the defending county-champion Hawks. Nathan Macek started the scoring for Reservoir off an assist from Aidan Atang and then Noah Gantt added the second goal on a break away set up by another assist from Atang.
River Hill pulled within a goal when Jed Dixon scored with 15 minutes to go, but the Gators’ defense held strong the rest of the way to secure the victory.
Goals: Re — Nathan Macek 1, Noah Gantt 1; RH — Jed Dixon.
Assists: Re — Aidan Atang 2.
Saves: Re — Quinn Dean 2; RH — N/A.
Long Reach 1, Wilde Lake 0 OT
Silas Sarmiento scored the winning goal in overtime off an assist from Adam Yang, helping the Lightning pick up the road win over the defending 3A state champions in their season opener.
Wilde Lake goalie Mesale Robi made five saves in the loss.
Mt. Hebron 2, Marriotts Ridge 0