After two straight years of losing in the region final, Long Reach will try again at 3 p.m. today at North Carroll.
"I'm praying that the third time is the charm," said Long Reach senior goalie Jaye Lance after her team defeated Wilde Lake, 2-1, in a Class 3A North region semifinal yesterday at Wilde Lake. "We're going in with more skills [than last year], and we're going more fired up because we want it so bad. We want a banner that says region champions."
The ninth-ranked Lightning (11-2-2) will face eighth-ranked North Carroll (11-3), which beat South Carroll, 1-0, yesterday for the third time this season. Long Reach lost to county rival Mount Hebron in the last two Class 2A South region finals, and is looking forward to playing a team it hasn't faced before.
"It's nice because they're no expectations," said Long Reach senior Jessica Burkhardt, who scored the winning goal seven minutes into the second half. "All we know is that we have to play our hardest to win. I'm glad we're not playing Hebron again."
Long Reach, co-county champions and winners of seven straight, took a 1-0 lead seven minutes into the game when sophomore Sherry Epperson controlled Burkhardt's crossing pass from the left side and beat goalie Annie Troutman (seven saves).
Wilde Lake (3-9-1) tied the game with 54 seconds left. The Wildecats forced a penalty corner and got three shots off it. Long Reach was unable to clear two of them, and junior Kathleen Jackson put the third shot past Lance (five saves).
The Lightning controlled much of the second half, outshooting Wilde Lake, 10-1. In a two-minute span, Long Reach took five straight corners, and Burkhardt connected on the fifth one with 22: 59 left to play.
Bridgette Burkhardt began the corner, hitting the ball to Shannon Woodward. Woodward tapped the ball to her right, where Jessica Burkhardt took control and fired a hard shot that pounded the back of the cage.
"Having consecutive corners is ideal," said Jessica Burkhardt. "I think they were getting tired at that point."
Wilde Lake came as close as you can to tying the game with eight minutes remaining. Liz Ketner hit to Margaret Tsien to begin a corner. Tsien fired back and Ketner's shot hit the left post.
"I thought we had that one," said Ketner.
That was the best scoring opportunity Wilde Lake had, but the Wildecats, who lost, 4-0, to Long Reach Oct. 12, kept the game interesting with their all-out play.
"We played a great game. We have nothing to be ashamed of," said Jackson.
Wilde Lake coach Laurie Donnelly was pleased with her team's showing.
"I told the kids afterward that it was like someone had tossed a coin and we lost," said Donnelly. "It could have gone either way."
Donnelly said that was true of many games this season.
"They've had a hard season and some tough losses, but they have nothing to be ashamed of," Donnelly said. "They worked very hard and put in a lot of time. We're definitely better than our record shows."
Class 2A South: Mount Hebron (9-5-2) and Hammond (9-4-2) advanced to tomorrow's 3 p.m. region final at Hammond.
Mount Hebron defeated host Owings Mills, 3-0, behind two goals from Lauren Wolkstein and a goal and assist from Katie Jeschke. The Vikings led 2-0 at halftime.
Hammond defeated visiting Lackey, 14-0. Stacey Umberger had four goals and two assists, Courtney Vaughan had three goals and three assists and Lauren Snyder had two goals.
Hammond and Mount Hebron played to a scoreless tie on Oct. 5.
Class 1A West: Glenelg advanced to the region final with a 2-1 win over visiting Catoctin. Kelly O'Connor and Leah Burger gave the Gladiators (12-4) a 2-0 halftime lead.
Glenelg will play at 3 p.m. tomorrow at Poolesville, a 4-1 winner yesterday at Oakland Mills (3-11), in the region final.