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River Hill girls soccer holds off Bel Air, advances to state championship

No soccer team in the state – boys or girls –  can match the impressive track record the River Hill girls program has achieved in state tournament play.

Going into Saturday's Class 3A semifinal against No. 3 Bel Air, the No. 2 Hawks had won 10 championships in their 12 state tournament appearances for an unmatched 83 percent winning clip.

That championship pedigree and poise that accompanies it came in handy in the second half.

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Surrendering a goal in the opening minutes and not on top of its game through the first half, River Hill stayed calm and persistent in the second half. The Hawks got the offense they needed with goals from Victoria Tran and Jessica Hopkins, and were able to hold off Bel Air's late push to earn a 2-1 win at CCBC-Essex.

River Hill (16-2) advances to next week's state championship game and will take on the winner of Saturday's other semifinal between Linganore and Northern-Calvert.The finals will run from Thursday through Saturday at Loyola University's Ridley Athletic Complex.

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“We had a tough talk at halftime,” said Hopkins, who also assisted on Tran’s tying goal.  “I think our heads went down in the first half and I think we all realized it.  So at halftime, we just told ourselves that this game wasn’t over yet and we had so much time left. We flipped the switch and started playing our game.”

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It started with getting to the ball first, something the Bobcats (16-2) had done regularly in the first half to claim a 1-0 advantage when Lexi Kraemer scored two minutes into play.

River Hill coach Brian Song told his players at the break that the goals would come if they started winning 50-50 balls.Sure enough, Tran finished off the chance from Hopkins to tie the game at 1 with 30:39 to play.

The game-winner came 10 minutes later when Hopkins lined up a free kick from 25 yards away.She has 13 goals and 20 assists this season.

"I hit it with my right foot, which is the one that's been bothering me for a while, but this was it and I figured I may as well hit it," she said. "I just hit it hard, drove it and it went in."

The Bobcats came more ready to play and were rewarded immediately when Kraemer scored from 14 yards away off a feed from Kayla Klock two minutes into the game.The Bobcats had the ball more in the first half and more chances, but couldn't add to their lead.

They saw a different River Hill team in the second half.After falling behind, the Bobcats had a number of chances to tie with Klock putting three shots on goal in the final 15 minutes, but nothing got past Hawks goalie Julia Caine.

"I think they saw the end of their season and came out with a renewed energy," Bel Air coach Josh Clemmer said. "We still had our chances -- some great chances at goal --but couldn't get anything through.

“It was a wonderful season.It’s a disappointing ending because we expected to be in the championship game, but that was the good thing about our girls -- they knew they were good enough.They showed that today, they played well.”

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