Wilde Lake senior captain Rachel Lazris talks about her team's 3-1 victory over Calvert in a 2A state semifinal game on Nov. 14. (Tim Schwartz/Howard County Times video)
One hundred two days.
It's written on the back of the Wilde Lake girls soccer team's shirt, and it signifies the number of days from soccer tryouts until the day of the state championship game.
It was always the goal of the team to be together that long, and with a 3-1 win over Calvert in a 2A state semifinal game on Saturday, the Wildecats will reach that 102nd day with a chance to win the first state championship in program history.
"I've waited four years to get to the state finals and it's finally happening," said Wilde Lake senior captain Brynn Drury, who scored the game's first goal on a perfectly placed free kick with 23 minutes, 13 seconds left in the first half. "It's a dream come true for me and the seniors and everybody on this team."
With the score tied at 1-1 entering the later stages of the second half, the Wildecats (15-1-1) put the game out of reach when junior Sydney McNamara found a loose ball in front of the net and hammered it home with 13:01 left. Freshman Lily Dunbar then linked up with senior Kristen Edwards, who found the net for an insurance goal less than five minutes later.
"It's amazing. The season's been full of adversity and full of ups and downs, and to be here at the state tournament is unreal," said Wilde Lake coach Davia Procida. "It's unreal but it's also what we expected. It's very exciting. Not a lot of people get to do this."
The turning point in the game came when Calvert junior Sydney Watson headed in a controversial goal on a free kick with 26:10 left in the contest. After a long discussion between the referees, they ruled Watson was onside and the goal counted, tying the game at 1-1.
Clearly frustrated by the call, it seemed the Wildecats could have gone one of two ways – let the goal get to them and throw them off their game, or step it up and continue to push for the go-ahead goal. They chose the latter with conviction.
"I think it speaks volumes of our team," Drury said. "We're a family and we pride ourselves on being tougher than most teams out there, and we got together after the goal and we said it could be called either way, and even if it is called in our favor we still need to put one in. We can't ride on a 1-0 lead, so we have to play our game, focus and put more in the net."
"It's been a long time since we've been scored on. So I'm extremely proud of our players because they fought harder, they didn't collapse," Procida added. "They kept their heads and put two more in. It was awesome. ... The call was questionable, but they tuned that anger the right direction."
Aside from a few dangerous moments from the Cavaliers, Wilde Lake dominated possession and play in the midfield. The majority of the game was played inside the Calvert defense end, and the suffocating Wildecats defense cleared away what few chances the Cavaliers had.
They managed to earn four corner kicks in the first five minutes, including one that hit off the far post, but it wasn't until a foul set up a free kick near the right sideline from about 16 yards out that Drury stepped up and put in the game's first goal. She floated her shot floated across the face of the goal and just inches inside the far post and into the side netting.
"I always like to get it on frame – that was my goal," Drury said. "From there, I was not trying to chip it in. I felt like I could shoot it from there, so that was what I was trying to do. I didn't know it was going to go upper-90 in the back corner."
"It was beautiful," added junior Sahar Zoghi. "It was so good."
Wilde Lake continued to dominate play throughout the rest of the half, but couldn't put another one way despite numerous chances on frame.
Calvert picked up its play to open the second half and pushed numbers forward, and it finally broke through to tie the game. Watson managed to get her head on the ball about 10 yards out and put it into the left side of the net just before colliding with Wildecats freshman goalie Jenna Hutchison.
It looked like just before the free kick was taken, the Wilde Lake back line stepped up, putting Watson among others offside. The call on the field stood though, and the game was tied at 1-1.
"We worked so hard we felt like we deserved to win," Zoghi said. "In our minds we just couldn't let it bring us down."
It took a few minutes, but the Wildecats started to put the pressure on the Cavaliers defense with less than 20 minutes remaining. With 15:40 left, senior captain Rachel Lazris header from a corner floated just wide of the mark, but it didn't take much longer for the deciding goal.
On another free kick by Drury, the ball was sent deep into the box and Lazris was just barely able to get her head on it before colliding with Calvert goalie Katie Rider. The ball squirted further across the goal, and after a bounce McNamara put her right foot on it and pounded it into the back of the net to take a 2-1 lead.
"The word that my dad (assistant coach David Procida) says is dig. They dig and dig and dig," Procida said. "We take advantage of those opportunities, and Sydney has had so many goals like that. She's just there and she keeps fighting and it says a lot about the mentality of our team."
The insurance goal came with just 8:23 remaining when Lazris passed her free kick quickly on the ground to Dunbar down the left sideline. With her left foot, she sent a low cross into the box, and Edwards one-timed it with the side of her right foot and placed it neatly into the right side of the goal.
"I'm just happy for them. I'm happy for all of us," Procida said. "The last time we made it this far my dad was the coach and I wasn't a player. So I'm happy for him too. To be here with him is really special.
"We've all been saying all along that this could be a state championship team. Toward the end of the season, this is a state championship team, now what are you going to do with it? They play like champions. They do everything they possibly can to take control of the game and I'm fortunate to coach them. They just get it done."