The Broadneck girls soccer team’s hearts broke twice Saturday.
Once when its four-year starter and program leader, Eva Mowery, collapsed midway through the second half.
Then again when the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association handed them their “finalist” plaque and crowned Walt Whitman champions.
Though the Bruins surged in the final three minutes — scoring on a shot from senior Sadie Wilkinson — the Vikings’ goals in each half proved enough to down the top-seeded Bruins, 2-1, in the Class 4A state final. It was the first loss of the season for Broadneck (21-1-1).
“Tonight’s game was a good indicator of what the team’s made of,” Broadneck coach John Camm said. “When things didn’t go our way tonight, we still hung in there, still fought.”
Even with the weight of a championship loss, Mowery felt pride through the pain for her teammates for making it this far.
“From the start, even in the spring season last year, our goal was to get to states and play here at Loyola,” Mowery said. “I think we just kept that same mentality through the whole season.”
During last Saturday’s state semifinals, the Bruins and Quince Orchard needed to play through regulation and two overtimes before any team had any luck finding the net. That was not the case this Saturday.
Though Broadneck earned the first push, Whitman delivered the first strike.
Vikings’ freshman defender Evelyn Javers lured Bruins keeper Mason Smargissi out, where the goalie hesitated a second too long.
Javers sent a pass to sophomore Gemma Davitian, who fired an open shot into the net for the 1-0 advantage in only the seventh minute.
“First half, we were a little flat,” senior defender Carly Johnston said. “Our shape could’ve been better. We were told from the very start their forwards were good.”
Broadneck hadn’t allowed a goal since Oct. 19, when Glen Burnie put one away — in a 5-1 loss for the Gophers. But while Whitman’s pep band drummed up a beat from the crowd, Broadneck could not drum up many touches of its own. The Vikings backline proved more than capable of spearing possession away from Broadneck and driving back down to the other end of the field.
While the Bruins’ offense labored fruitlessly to find one good chance, the backline — led by Johnston — held down its side of things. When it didn’t, when Whitman peppered direct shots on goal, Smargissi fended them off with six saves.
“Hats off to Broadneck. They’re a well-organized defensive team that made it difficult for us,” Whitman coach Greg Herbert said.
A one-goal deficit at halftime wasn’t anything that Broadneck couldn’t surmount. The Bruins simply needed to generate shots.
Whitman on the other hand? It didn’t have the same problem.
Bruins and Vikings played pinball in a scrum just before the mouth of the goal when Javers hit her sweet spot and drove an arcing shot around Smargissi — and into the net for a 2-0 lead in the second half.
The only time this season the Bruins had fallen behind by two goals as they did on Saturday was against Crofton on Sept. 21. In that game, the Cardinals’ two goals loomed over Broadneck until the Bruins roared back to draw.
The Bruins stressed in previous playoff games how much that Cardinals’ game taught them about resilience and getting back to the Broadneck game-plan.
“We’d lost hope. We fought, but we didn’t know how to fight,” Lilly Trout said. “…As a team, we learned how to keep going.”
An uplifting bench, which Broadneck credits as an extra player, helped. So did the experience of falling behind to Mercy by a goal, too, and Leonardtown, to eventually prevail.
“We had the attitude that we’re still in the game, as long as there’s only a goal difference,” Camm said.
Broadneck did indeed get back within a goal after Mowery exited the field.
The ball off Wilkinson’s foot seemed to defy physics itself as it curled around Whitman keeper Sophia Mays and hit string. It wasn’t just skill that flew with Wilkinson’s shot. It was love, too, for her partner-in-crime sitting injured on the sidelines.
“When we scored, we got back into it and felt more motivated,” Wilkinson said. “Those minutes after that, we were just trying hard to get that tying goal.”
The equalizer never came, however.
No one will ever see this Broadneck team again; the Bruins graduate most of its key players, from backs to front line to the net.
But the impact left by those players and this season will color the teams to come.
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“This is one of the toughest groups we had,” Camm said, “if not the toughest group.”