Severna Park edges out Broadneck in shootout, 1-0

Broadneck was never going to go quietly, and Severna Park knew that.

An unforgiving matchup where the soccer ball rattled around like a puck on ice, neither team bowed for two complete halves and a pair of overtimes.

As Bella Espinoza lined up, the fourth kicker for the Falcons in the shootout, she tried to wipe a stressful memory from her mind. When Severna Park won the shootout against South River in the county championships, she’d missed her goal.

She wouldn’t let it happen again.

“For me, after missing that P.K. at South River, I was really stressed out to take it, to be perfectly honest,” she said. “We practice in practice, and we prepare for this because the ultimate goal is to go to states.”

As Espinoza’s kick found the back of the net, the Falcons (17-1) had clinched the 4A East championship 1-0, undoing the loss to their rival Bruins this time last fall.

Madeline Altman, Kailyn McCulloch and Chase Campbell each had good shots in penalty kicks for Severna Park, as they had in counties.

“That group is eager to take them,” coach Brian Morgan said, “and no matter what the outcome, we’re behind that group.”

It was a welcome relief for a team itching to someday win a high-stress game in regulation again.

But for 80 minutes and then some, each team’s box was enveloped with a barrier no one on either side knew how to break.

No one but Ella Raines. The sophomore broke away and fired at keeper Sam Hoffman for Severna Park’s — and the game’s, even — only shot on goal of the first half.

The direction of play twisted and turned from one side of the pitch to the other, with neither Falcon nor Bruin on the ball for more than a few seconds before getting stripped or blocked by an opponent.

More than midway through the first frame, Broadneck drew a corner. Lela Clark loaded a rocket straight for the Severna Park defense, who, as is their trademark, headed the ball right out of danger.

But it was that very backfield, as well as Broadneck’s, that kept things even. As Bruins forward Mia Camm knocked a powerful kick at the box, Lena McLaughlin was there to pound it away. Likewise, as Sam Cremmins hounded the Broadneck goal — more than once — a host of Bruins were there to deflect.

“It’s not an accident they’ve had such great results,” Morgan said of his defense. “That many clean sheets is pretty impressive. They communicate well, they work for each other, and I can’t say enough about them.”

As befitting the relentless back-and-forth, the two squads went scoreless into halftime.

After the break, though, Broadneck’s offense turned up to a boil. The Bruins flitted around Severna Park until lining a bullet at Katie Byrd. The Falcons goalie leapt, arms outstretched, to make her first save of the game.

Fifteen minutes down, Raines nearly had her spotlight moment against Broadneck, just like she had in October. She settled the ball, ready to strike from the corner, looking as if she’d outmaneuvered the Bruin on her back. At that second, a whistle left that question of whether or not she would have found the net in the air.

The Bruins enlisted Camm on their second corner of the game, with just 16 minutes to go. The senior drilled a shot directly at goal — and into the arms of Byrd for a third save.

“I knew it was going to be a hard fight because we’re both pretty physical,” Byrd said. “We just had to tuck it in on defense.”

Broadneck had wrapped Severna Park up in the second half, keeping them from posting a second shot on the cage while the Bruins had five. But just like at the end of the first, the Bruins found themselves entangled with the Falcons, scoreless, bound for overtime.

“We had to make a few changes,” Morgan said. “They’re a well-coached team, very competitive and they battle. It was a situation where you got to make adjustments at points, and we made an adjustment at the end to try to gain possession.”

Neither team could make a mistake.

With a minute left in overtime, Severna Park drew their first corner of the night, but the Bruins defense fended it off.

But the Falcons had woken up.

Before the buzzer sounded, bringing in double overtime, Espinoza kicked the second blue shot on goal.

Both Hoffman and Byrd battled a handful of attempts to score in the next ten minutes, especially Hoffman, who stopped a direct shot from Falcons junior Chloe Nagel.

The two side traded open fire, but the clock, once again, expired. And so came the penalty kicks. Minutes later, the Falcons swooped down on the pitch in celebration.

“Obviously, we’d like to win in regulation,” Morgan said. “But we’ll take it.”

Severna Park will have to next bring down the winner of Quince Orchard/Walt Whitman on Saturday at Dr. Henry A Wise Jr. High before the Falcons can earn a spot in the state title game.

“We’re excited,” Morgan said. “Our three years, we’ve made steps. We’ve finally made this step, the next step. And we’re trying to play as many games as we can… On to the next one.”

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