Goals by Kelsey Cronin and Ashley Hooper 47 seconds apart in the 55th minute of play broke open a scoreless game and River Hill held on to defeat South River, 2-1, in the Class 3A East region championship last night at Howard.
The third-ranked Hawks (16-1) will play Thomas Johnson at 5 p.m. tomorrow in the first game of the state tournament semifinal doubleheader at Sherwood in Montgomery County.
The last time River Hill and South River met was two years ago in the 2A-3A state championship when seven yellow cards were issued and the game ended in a 1-1 deadlock. There were no cards last night, but plenty of aggressive and exciting play.
"It was hard fought on both sides," said River Hill coach Joan Kelso Smedley. "We played aggressive, they played aggressive. It was a good game, and I don't think it got out of hand."
Seventh-ranked South River (14-3) came out strong and dictated play early. River Hill withstood the challenge and began to create its own opportunities as the half progressed. South River tried to shrink the field my moving its defenders up, and the Hawks countered with many fast-break opportunities.
River Hill freshman defender Megan Buescher has one of the longest, most powerful throw-ins in the area, and the Hawks used that weapon to take the lead.
Standing on the left sideline roughly 35 yards away, Buescher threw the ball directly at keeper Erin Johnson. With a number of players trying to kick the ball, it hit off Johnson and to the foot of River Hill's Shannon Jackson.
"It hit off the goalie at first, then Shannon Jackson taped it and I just finished it with power," said Cronin, a junior defender. "It was going in, but I just wanted to make sure."
The goal, with 25: 05 left to play, was crucial, said both coaches.
"I stressed from the beginning the first goal matters and the first 10 minutes [of the game] it showed," said South River coach Tucker Schrumm. "We had a lot of chances, we just didn't put them in the net and kept them in the game."
Said Smedley: "It was real important, and I'll tell you what, the second goal was even more important, especially right after we scored the first one. That really gave us solid ground for the rest of the half. Having that 2-0 lead really helped."
Hooper, a sophomore forward, controlled a loose ball on the right side 25 yards out.
"I was looking for my teammates, but they all said go all the way because they saw the opening," said Hooper, who finished nicely to the far corner. "I just faked to one side [to beat the final defender] and took it through."
South River fought hard all game, and it wasn't about to quit then.
"They came back, and we knew they would," Kelso said. "They're a tenacious team and they just keep coming at you. We knew we needed two goals."
The Seahawks scored with 16: 47 remaining when Angie Beckett crossed from the right side and Terra Gaswick finished.
"The best thing is that they were down 2-0 and they didn't give up and put a goal back in," said Schrumm. "They had a lot of heart."
That certainly was true of both teams.
"I've never seen our team be this excited for a game," said Cronin. "The whole day we were pumped and so excited to come out here and win. I think we played with a lot of heart. We came out here to win and we did our best."
Said Smedley: "They played hard. They wanted this game really badly and it showed."