Glenelg junior forward Vaughn Sines was emphatic on his finishes, scoring one goal early and another late in Friday night’s Class 2A boys soccer state title game against North Harford.
In between, the No. 13 Gladiators played thorough, efficient soccer, with the end result a 2-0 win over the No. 11 Hawks that produced the program’s third state crown and first since 1997.
In 2019, when the varsity finished with one win, Glenelg saw promise in a freshman class. After a state semifinal appearance last season, it all came together for the Gladiators, culminating with Friday’s sturdy team performance that depicted the program’s climb.
“It’s a special group. We knew four years ago that this senior class — when they came in as freshmen — we saw the potential was there,” Glenelg coach Joey Osborne said. “And it’s one of those that potential is one thing, but you got to stick with it. Them building it up and getting to where we are today, it’s a testament to them. They put a lot of work in over the past four years as a group, individually and the growth just kept coming and coming. To be able to have it turn out like it did today — ending in a state championship — we couldn’t ask for anything more.”
Knowing this was their opportunity, the Gladiators (12-4-1) came to Friday’s game at Loyola Maryland’s Ridley Athletic Complex with a sense of urgency that provided early chances to score.
Sines made sure the Gladiators were rewarded.
Eshan Beg headed a ball served in from the left side that was turned away by North Harford goalkeeper Michael Lawry, but the rebound came to Sines, who buried a chance from 6 yards.
The goal, coming in the ninth minute, came shortly after Sam Kersh hit one from 8 yards that targeted inside the far post but was cleared off the goal line by Hawks defender Matt Siedlecki.
“I know we got to start the tempo out well, get a goal early,” Sines said. “So when I saw Eshan head the ball, the keeper save it and it came bouncing to me, I was just trying to make sure to get over it and smash it as hard as I could, get it past the keeper and in the back in the net.”
The Hawks, who had their own storybook season making the program’s first state title game appearance, adjusted at halftime and showed urgency in the second half. Leading scorer Ben Wardle’s left-footed shot from 14 yards went wide of the far post early in the half. Midfielder Kian Pucher, strong throughout the game, had a quick turn-and-fire shot from 16 yards also go wide with 8:10 to play.
The Gladiators’ defense did its part, with goalkeeper Joey Samsock needing to make three routine saves.
With 7:11 to play, midfielder Roman Farace was taken down in the box. Sines sent the penalty kick high to the left corner to make it 2-0 and seal the win.
Glenelg standout forward Siji Jolayemi, who enjoyed a 10-goal, five-assist senior season and was on varsity during that one-win freshman season, took a look at the championship plaque that rested beside him and was taken aback.
“It all feels unreal still,” he said. “I don’t know if I even have a true feeling of how I feel. I need to let it settle in a little bit before I can express my feelings.
“We knew this was the year. Last year, we came close and this year, as the season went on, we had ups and downs, some games we thought we should have won and we knew we had to learn from those games ... we were able to advance and learn something from each game we played.”
The Hawks (15-3-1) got more mileage out of any season in program history. Things didn’t end how they would have liked, but the entire school backed them for their special ride.
First-year coach Erik Lane, previously the program’s JV coach, took over early in the season when former 15-year coach Matt Johnston stepped down abruptly due to a work conflict.
Lane saw his Hawks play Friday with the same heart and desire his team showed all season.
“We played this game as a family, we cry because it matters and we made school history today,” he said.
Pucher was quick to credit Lane for the strong leadership he provided throughout the season.
“He came and made a difference,” said Pucher, who finished with seven goals and five assists this season. “He did something that no boys soccer coach ever done [at North Harford] and I thank him for that. ... I want to thank the guys on the team because they came to practice every day, we all worked hard and we all had the same goal and we were family.”
Goals: G — Sines 2
Saves: NH — Lawry 4; G — Samsock 3
Half: G, 1-0