For the Reservoir girls soccer team, the second half of Tuesday's night's Class 3A East regional title game at Howard County rival River Hill carried a lot of mixed emotions.
First came excitement, with a goal from Megan Jackson that produced a lead. Next came nerve-racking minutes with the Hawks urgently pressing to tie. Finally, in the closing minutes, Amanda Jackson provided relief.
With the Jackson sisters providing the offense and a collectively gutsy performance on defense, the No. 9 Gators came away with a 2-0 win over No. 6 River Hill that sends them to the state tournament for the second straight year.
Reservoir will take a 13-3-1 mark into the state semifinals -- where it will play Tuscarora on Saturday -- with sights on a championship after finishing as the runner-up last year. River Hill ends its season with a 14-3 record.
Shortly after the Hawks had a goal disallowed on an offsides call and another chance cleared away, Amanda Jackson made a strong run down the right side before finishing off a chance to give the Gators a 2-0 lead with eight minutes left. All that remained was the final whistle, which was followed by a celebration on the Reservoir side.
"I just dribbled it down the end line and I wanted to finish out the game, so I just shot it as hard as I could and it placed perfectly," Jackson said. "My heart just sank -- I was so happy."
After a quiet first half which saw few scoring chances for either side, the Gators took a 1-0 lead with 33 minutes left to play when Lauren Ingnacio sent a ball through from the right side that found an unmarked Megan Jackson, who finished from 6 yards away.
The Hawks pushed to tie, but goalkeeper Megan Fowler (10 saves) stood her ground with help from a defense led by sweeper Breanna Marsh and right back Cara Dooley.