With one memorable touch and 80 minutes of poised play, the Reservoir girls soccer team made history Thursday night at UMBC, coming away with a 1-0 win over Huntingtown in the Class 3A title game for the program's first crown.
Senior All-Metro midfielder Katlyn Axenfeld provided the offense, bending home a corner kick late in the first half that proved to be the game-winner. Reservoir finishes its season with a 15-3-1 mark, while Huntingtown, of Calvert County, fell to 15-3.
"Last year, we kind of came in like, 'Oh my gosh, it's states,'" senior forward Megan Jackson said. "It was our first time, and when the music came on we were dancing. But this year, we kind of followed what Tuscarora was like last year and were more focused. Our goal from the very beginning of the year was to win states, and we got here and we were like, 'It's our goal to win states, not get here.'"
After coming up one goal short of a state title in a 3-2 loss to Tuscarora last year, the Gators protected their lead by pushing forward and capably handling pressure in the final 10 minutes when the Hurricanes pressed to tie.
With just under 10 minutes left, Gators junior goalie Megan Fowler punched out two straight corner kicks sent in by Micaela Antzoulatos, and a third was cleared from danger by senior Megan Jackson. Fowler made two more saves, and the Gators survived two more corner kicks in the closing minutes.
With skill, determination and resiliency, the Gators accomplished plenty in the past eight days.
It began Nov. 9 when they visited Howard County rival River Hill and avenged a regular-season loss with a sturdy 2-0 road win that earned them the East region. Next was a satisfying 1-0 state semifinal win over defending state champ Tuscarora in a rematch of last year's final.
The Gators had plenty left for Thursday night's title game. They dominated the first half and, after two great scoring chances earlier, were finally able to break through with Axenfeld's corner kick in the 34th minute.
From the left side, she struck a bending, right-footed shot aimed high to the near post that went off the right hand of Huntingtown goalie Shelby Taylor and in.
"In practice, we work on getting corner kicks to the [6-yard line], and that's where I was aiming,” Axenfeld said. “But the wind was going towards the way we were scoring. I saw the goalie [Shelby Taylor] come out, and she was really tall, so I was expecting her to grab it. ... And then I was just running back and people came running at me. I was really surprised."