Bolstered by a strong senior class, the Loch Raven boys soccer team had this season pegged as potentially special for awhile now.
The Raiders are making good on the opportunity.
In Friday’s Class 1A state semifinal against International High School at Langley Park, they got the necessary offense early and protected the advantage capably in claiming a 3-1 win at Northeast High school.
Loch Raven (12-6-1) will make its eighth state championship game appearance next week – set to take on Saturday’s Patterson Mill-Mountain Ridge semifinal winner – with a bid to win the program’s fifth title and first since 2009. The title games for all four classifications are set for Thursday through Saturday at Loyola Maryland’s Ridley Athletic Complex with the schedule yet to be set.
The Raiders, who got first-half goals from Sam Korzi and Brendan Hurley with Reice Thuerrauch providing insurance with 12 minutes left, go into the championship game winners of nine straight games.
“It’s our last ride and we want to win it all. We want to bring it home,” said captain Chris Simaku, one of 12 Loch Raven seniors.
The Raiders came out focused and hungry.
Less than two minutes into play, Korzi pounded on an errant clear and finished from eight yards for a 1-0 advantage.Continuing to get forward, they made it 2-0 with 31:28 to play in the first half when Simaku’s corner reached the far post where Hurley was quick to finish.
It proved to be enough with the Raiders defense, led by senior center Cal Hagan, answering the challenge in the second half.
“Getting two goals right off the bat like that was great – I didn’t expect that,” Loch Raven coach Matt Radebaugh said. “We knew we would be able to do well in the box against them and were able to do that, and then it was pretty much holding on for dear life from that point on. They were pressuring our midfield, but we were able to withstand it and getting that goal late was huge.”
The Phoenix, from Prince George’s County, settled in and their pressure midway through the half resulted in a penalty kick that Yaya Diabagate neatly placed in the lower left corner to cut the lead to 2-1 at the break. But the Raiders protected the lead responsibly throughout the second half before relief came from Thuerrauch’s goal.
The North region champions will go into next week’s title game having outscored four playoff opponents 23-3.
The Phoenix players have been or currently are in the English language learners program and are a collection from Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Uganda, Honduras,Guatemala, El Salvador, Afghanistan and Iraq.
Six seniors have been starters for all four years, dating back to 2015 when the program began at the junior varsity level, and this was its second straight semifinal appearance.