With one quick strike, a perfectly placed shot from 20 yards, Dulaney sophomore midfielder Zach Gude gave himself a soccer moment Friday he will never forget.
And in doing so, he helped lead the Lions to next week's Class 4A North regional title game.
Gude, just called up from junior varsity and making his first start with the big team, scored in the 19th minute against visiting Westminster, and Dulaney's defense did the rest as the Lions came away with a 1-0 win over the Owls in semifinal play.
Dulaney improves to 11-4 on the season and will next host Urbana from Frederick County in the title game set for Tuesday. Westminster, which upset Perry Hall in the quarterfinals and provided the Lions with a formidable push, ends its season with a 7-7 mark.
In an evenly contested game that saw both teams get quality scoring chances, it was Gude who was able to connect to help the Lions advance. After senior Kevin Tignall gained possession of the ball down the right flank, he sent a pass back to a trailing Gude, who one-timed a heavy shot from 20 yards that curled into the upper far left post. It was his first career goal and couldn't have come at a better time for the Lions.
"I'm not going to say it was lucky, but I'll say it was a lot better than I thought it was going to be. I couldn't have asked for a better setup, and it curled perfectly. I don't know - I'm just so happy about it," said Gude, who was promoted after the JV team captured the Baltimore County championship. "It's a great feeling. Every time you get a goal it's a great feeling, but especially when you're the youngest kid out there and it's the winning goal. It's amazing."
The Owls pressed to the end, but they were never able to break through against a staunch and organized Dulaney defense led by senior right back Jeremy Wortman and six saves from junior goalie Alex Wolf. Westminster's best chance came five minutes after the Lions took the lead when senior midfielder Tim Hayes crisply headed David Langan's corner kick on target, but the ball was cleared off the line by the Dulaney defense. Midway through the second half, senior forward Chris Anderson had a chance in front go just wide.
"The games that we finish, we win, and the games we don't finish, we don't win. I can talk all kinds of tactics and X's and O's, but for this particular group, it has come down to just that," Westminster coach Fran McCullin said.
With perennial state power and Baltimore County champion Perry Hall out of the way and top-seeded Patterson also eliminated, Dulaney finds itself with a third straight home game for Tuesday's championship game against Urbana.
It has second-year coach Jerry Tana asking: "Why not us? We're a quality team."
Goals: D-Gude. Assists: D-Tignall. Saves: W-Kazyak 8; D-Wolf 6. Half: D, 1-0.