The Perry Hall girls soccer team mostly had it all working against visiting Urbana in Tuesday night’s Class 4A North Region title game.
But as the game hit the midway point of the second half still scoreless, the No. 9 Gators knew something special was needed to break through.
In her four-year career at Perry Hall, All-Metro forward Phoebe Canoles has been a game-changing player, and that proved true again.
Canoles settled a pass from fellow senior Kara Dietrich and off she went down the left side of the field. She shook off her defender to get inside the penalty area, got by the defensive help that came from the middle and made one more decisive move to get past goalkeeper Grayson Jons and reach the end line. All that was left was a pass across the goal area for Annie Kim, who beat her own defender to put away the winning goal in a 1-0 victory over the Hawks of Frederick County at CCBC Essex.
Perry Hall (15-3) advances to the state tournament for the ninth time, still seeking the program’s first championship. A win against Urbana, which eliminated Perry Hall in last year’s region title game and went on to reach the state final, could go a long way for the senior-laden Gators as they take aim at school history.
Perry Hall will play Eleanor Roosevelt — a 3-1 winner over Parkdale in Tuesday’s South Region title game — in Saturday’s state title game at Wise in Upper Marlboro at 2:30 p.m.
“I think we have what it takes in all aspects, and now it’s just like it is every year. It’s who’s going to finish that chance when you have the opportunity,” said Perry Hall coach Matt Smoot, who guided the Gators to the title game in 2016. “I’ve seen great teams go every year. We’ve been there before, and the teams that have won capitalize on that tough finish, so that’s what we need.”
They had good practice Tuesday, with Canoles getting things started.
“I knew we weren’t going to have many more opportunities because their back line was really strong,” Canoles said. “So I got the ball, looked up and just went. I didn’t even think twice about it. I just wanted to get to goal and saw the opportunity to cut the defender and then keeper and then laid it across. It feels amazing. It’s unbelievable. It’s like a dream you have making a big play in a big game to help your team forward.”
Kim was hungry and where she was needed to be for the finish.
“I knew that if I pressured the players in the box, I could get a touch on the end and did. It was great,” she said. “It’s nice to get a win against them since we lost to them last year and hopefully we’ll keep it going.”
After the Hawks (12-3-2) won possession early to earn some free kicks, the Gators’ took over for long stretches that produced chances but no goals until Canoles connected with Kim.
Afterward, the Gators defended well with senior goalie Lauren Gwin (three saves) and junior center Aya Neal leading the organized front for the clean sheet.
Goals: PH — Kim Assists: PH — Canoles Saves: U — Jons 4; PH — Gwin 3 Half: 0-0