HOWARD COUNTY, MD — Oakdale scored late in the first half and then won the shootout to beat River Hill, 2-1, in the Class 2A state championship game Saturday morning at Loyola University’s Ridley Athletic Complex in Baltimore.
Senior goalkeeper Jack Roby saved the first two shots in the shootout and junior midfielder Daniel Ivanov scored in the fifth round to help the Bears (14-5-1) win the shootout, 4-3, and capture their third state title and first since 2015.
“[Roby] made two huge saves,” said Oakdale coach Mitch Rubin. “Like everything else, trying to be prepared and working and spending that time [taking penalty kicks in practice], today’s lesson is it pays off.”
Junior midfielder Riley Daiger netted the first goal for the Bears on a counter attack with 10 minutes, 31 seconds left in the opening half. He received the ball from Kurt Grzybowski and dribbled more than half the length of the field and put his shot past River Hill senior goalkeeper Patrick Sherlock.
The Hawks (16-1-1) tied the game 2:56 into the second half when senior midfielder Justin Harris’ cross toward the back post found its way into goal. They pressured forward and controlled the pace of play the majority of the second half and saw a shot ring off the post, but they were unable to get anything else past Roby.
Roby stopped shots by Harris and sophomore Jonah Stoutenborough in the first two rounds of the shootout, while Noe Melgar, Anthony Kocan, Bryce Fischer and Ivanov buried their penalty kicks for Oakdale.
Julian Elguera, Jed Dixon and Josh O’Brien scored in the shootout for the Hawks, but Ivanov’s goal set off a celebration on the field.
“I was ready for it,” Ivanov said. “I was hoping our goalie and the players before me didn’t let it get to that point, but I was ready to step up.”
It’s the first loss of the season for River Hill and first since a 2-0 defeat in last year’s 2A state championship game against Eastern Tech.
“It’s pretty devastating. Very,” said Hawks coach Matt Shagogue.
“They made us chase the game a little bit. ... I thought we had some chances early and I was really pleased with how the guys fought back; we scored early in the second half and we certainly played in their end a lot of the time and Oakdale absorbed a lot of our pressure.”
Daiger said based on the scouting report that there would be an opportunity to pounce on a counter attack. The Hawks failed to slow Daiger down as he pressed forward and he was able to get through the back line.
“I knew they were going to defend with five and I was going to be able to run out from the midfield forward,” he said. “I did it earlier in the playoffs and I just tried to do it throughout most of the game.”
Once Harris tied the game early in the second half, Rubin said he altered the game plan to slow down the pace of the game. The amount of running his team did in the first 40 minutes tired out his starters, which made him empty the bench in the second half and play for the shootout.
River Hill, meanwhile, adjusted at the break and pressed more players forward. Shagogue knew Oakdale was going to focus more on not allowing a goal than scoring one.
“We ended up getting one early and I thought that was going to turn things a little bit,” he said. “It certainly turned the momentum and we just couldn’t break them down again.”
Neither team threatened much in the two 10-minute overtime sessions, and once it went to the shootout, Rubin had no doubts that his team would win.
“I asked [my assistant coach] at the beginning of the match, ‘Hey, could we just convince them to go to [penalty kicks] right now?’” Rubin said. “We’d be OK with that and take our chances because we were going to win if we got to that point.”