Trailing by a goal at the half to Maryvale in the IAAM B Conference championship, No. 13 Roland Park needed a spark to swing the momentum.
A big swing from the left foot of Mia Cleary on a free kick gave them a tying goal and Georgia Szoke gave them all they needed five minutes later to earn a 2-1 victory and their first girls soccer championship.
“That goal kind of changed the momentum,” Roland Park coach Kelly Price said. “From there, once we put one up top, from there it was kind of our game to win.”
Despite trading chances, neither team found the breakthrough until just past the midway point of the first half.
Kennedy Koehler made a run into the left side of the box, cut to gain space and fed a pass to Abby Miller, who blasted it into the roof of the net to give the Lions a 1-0 lead.
The Reds came close to leveling a few minutes later after Amani Green made a great individual play to create space and curled one in from the left side that clanged off the crossbar.
Roland Park pushed hard early in the second half to equalize and nearly had one 10 minutes in. After a mad scramble, the ball was on the ground just feet from the goal but a mass of humanity descended upon it before Maryvale goalkeeper Grace Morgan jumped on it to extinguish the threat. Morgan finished with five saves.
With just over 23 minutes to play, the Reds earned a free kick 10 yards from the edge of the box.
Cleary curled one around the wall and past the outstretched hand of Morgan and into the right corner to tie, 1-1.
“Mia has an amazing shot,” Price said. “We knew putting her in there she had the potential to score that. I think for her, a senior captain, it was a chance to put the game in her hands.”
Cleary’s goal seemed to bring the Reds to life.
Green, who moved from a midfield role to a more attacking role in the second half, got position and flicked a ball over the defense.
Szoke, who scored the overtime winner in the semifinals over Mount de Sales on an assist from Green, raced onto it and fought off a Lions defender before slotting it home.
“I know her; so I knew what she would do,” Szoke said. “I knew I had to push off the ball and get the inside. I love Amani, she’s one of the best players I know. We have great chemistry so it works out really well.”
The Reds, who had only conceded one goal in their past seven games, hunkered down on defense to ensure the school would be celebrating its first girls soccer championship.
“It means so much for all of us,” Cleary said. “Our school, the alumni, we got like 30 letters from girls playing soccer so it’s really exciting.”
Advancing to their first conference title game in 10 years, Maryvale coach Colin Devlin was in high spirits, knowing the future of his team and the future of girls soccer in the IAAM B Conference is in good hands.
“It was one of our best seasons,” Devlin said. “This whole conference is just getting better and better. Looking at the rosters with the freshman, we started four freshman today and so did they. The future looks bright for this conference in soccer.”