Wild Lake soccer player, Kristen Edwards, talks about defeating Hereford in the 2A North regional girls soccer final and the team's chances going forward. (Monica D'Ippolito, Baltimore Sun Media Group video)
Prior to its 2A North regional final game against Hereford Tuesday, Wilde Lake spent almost an entire practice working on nothing but set pieces. The repetitions paid off.
The Wildecats tallied goals off a corner and free kick on the way to securing a 2-0 win, and a spot in the state semifinals this weekend.
"We did set pieces for an hour yesterday," said Wilde Lake coach Davia Procida after her team claimed a regional title on its home turf. "I am speechless in a way. I don't think it is going to hit us until way after. The things that we accomplished so far, and are still in the present of accomplishing… it's just so nice to finally get rewarded for the hard work that the girls put in every day."
The Wildecats nearly put in two goals in the opening minute of the game. With one shot directed just wide of the mark, and another careening off the cross bar and out of play.
Wilde Lake completely controlled the tempo from the start, but after an injury to senior defender, and captain Annie Hudec in the back, the momentum stalled.
"Well when Annie went down it was devastating. And I think we got a little bit frazzled," Procida said. "It was definitely terrible to see her go down. She has worked four years for this. Hopefully she will be OK, but that in itself is heart breaking."
Shortly after Hudec's injury, the Bulls earned a foul in the Wildecats box, resulting in a penalty kick with about 25 minutes remaining in the half.
Kaely Howard stepped up and took the penalty for Hereford, but her attempt went wide right. After Howard's miss, Wilde Lake stormed back the other way, earning a corner kick with about 24 minutes on the clock.
Freshman Lily Dunbar took the corner and played a beautiful ball heading toward the near post. Bulls' goalkeeper Lizzie Chapline came out, attempting to catch the cross, but with the slick conditions could not get a clean handle. After the ball bounced off a defender, senior captain Brynn Drury knocked in the loose ball to give the Wildecats the 1-0 lead with 23:47 remaining on the clock.
"Luck," said Procida of the missed penalty. "It seems like it comes the harder you work."
With the 1-0 lead entering halftime, Wilde Lake knew the second half of the match was going to be a mental game, and the team needed to stay composed if it wanted to preserve the shutout and move on in postseason play.
And the Wildecats did just that. Despite playing the remainder of the second half without Hudec, the defense buckled down and earned its 12th shutout of the season.
Freshman keeper Jenna Hutchison came up with six saves in her team's 15th win of the year.
"It feels absolutely amazing," said Wildcat senior Kristen Edwards after the game. "It feels like we really deserve it, and we're ready to keep moving."
For good measure, Wilde Lake added another score late in the second half of action. After getting a foul called about 10 yards from the Bulls 18-yard box, Rachel Lazris put the ball down and quickly played a through ball to Dunbar making a run down the left side. Dunbar played the ball across, where Amy Radcliffe reeled it in and played it back to Edwards, who netted the final dagger for the Wildecats, solidifying the 2-0 outcome.
"We were actually working on that play yesterday, so it really came in handy," Edwards said. "It meant a lot. It meant a lot of security for the rest of the game. For me, it felt so good to be able to step it up so that the lead was farther… I think (our chances moving forward) are great. I think we're looking really good. I think it is our time."