With just under 11 minutes to play in the Class 1A girls soccer championship on Saturday, Sparrows Point senior midfielder Julie Lynch lined up to take a penalty kick and the No. 4 Pointers knew what would happen next.
Last year’s All-Metro Player of the Year was plenty poised, having been there before, and she neatly placed her shot to the right side past Smithsburg goalie Ryleigh McKinnon.
The goal, Lynch’s second of the game, gave the Pointers the lead back and they stayed composed on defense before getting a late goal from senior Jasmine Pinter to claim a 4-2 win over the Leopards at Loyola Maryland’s Ridley Athletic Complex.
After the game, Sparrows Point coach Lori Sexton talked about how she believes — more and more with each season — how much harder it is to stay on top as opposed to getting there.
The Pointers won their first state crown in 2013 and have now won a state-record six straight, completing their second perfect season (16-0) in four years.
“To win for the sixth time, there’s just no words to describe it,” Sexton said. “We were looking forward to it, we had high hopes and anticipation and we truly lived up to the goals we set at the beginning of the year. We wanted to win [the Baltimore] county championship, we wanted to win states and we were able to accomplish all that and have an undefeated season on top of it.”
Lynch closed out her senior season with 17 goals and 12 assists, finishing her stellar career with 68 and 51, respectively. She has put her stamp on other state title games in the Pointers’ impressive string.
As a freshman, she scored first in a 2-0 win over Patterson Mill. The following year, she scored two second-half goals — the second on a penalty kick — to bring the Pointers back against the same Huskies, 2-1.
So on Saturday, after the Leopards (10-5-5) tied the game at 2 on a penalty kick from their leading scorer Kara Poole with 36:35 left in the second half, it seemed fitting that Lynch would make an impact in her last state title game.
Teammate Sammie Bennett found space on the left side, made a sharp cut inside and was taken down by a defender in the box to award the penalty kick. Again, Lynch was able to rise to the occasion.
“I’ve only missed on PK in my life, so I thought I’d make it. But you never know. You can miss or hit the post,” said Lynch, who was quick to praise the entire team’s effort.
Sparrows Point began their string of state titles with consecutive one-goal wins against Smithsburg and then the Pointers claimed a 2-0 win in the 2016 semifinals.
On Saturday, the Leopards didn’t back down despite playing from behind for a good part of the game.
Pinter opened the scoring in the 14th minute, just beating McKinnon to a through ball sent in from senior Kallie Bell. It was the first of three goals with under three minute to play as Smithsburg got a tying goal from Bailey Grove before Lynch found the lower left corner on a free kick from 22 yards.
With the 2-1 advantage, the Pointers pressed for the rest of the first half – Lynch sending a number of dangerous crosses to the middle with McKinnon coming up with three big saves to keep the score at 2-1 at the break.
After Poole evened the score early in the second half, the team’s played on even terms before Bennett’s work in the box to set up Lynch’s penalty kick.
Pinter, who capped a fine career by sealing the win with her 12th goal of the season in the final minute, summed up what the key is to the Pointers’ sustained success.
“A lot of things that motivate us is our seniors,” she said. “There’s no way we can’t work hard for our seniors every single year. They’ve been here the longest and we need to show up for them, regardless of anybody else on our team. It’s just so hard to know that everybody has worked so hard for us and we work for each other and then it finally pays off -- every time.”
Goals: SP—Pinter 2, Lynch 2; SM—Grove, Poole. Assists: SP—Bell, Travsgline. Saves: SP—J. Foos 3; SM— Mckinnon 7. Half: SP. 2-1.