All is fair in love and playoff soccer.
After playing the role of heart-breakers on October 22, the Arundel girls’ soccer players had their own hearts broken the following week, as the team went from a triumphant 1-0 effort against Broadneck in the county championship match on October 22 to a 1-0 overtime defeat on penalty kicks at the hands of Severna Park in the 4A East region semifinal on October 31.
Thus completed a superb year for the Wildcats (14-2-1), who fell short of the ultimate goal of a state championship, but not before getting the county championship monkey off their backs in exciting and memorable fashion. The championship win over Broadneck dealt the Bruins their first loss of the season and clinched a long-awaited county crown for Arundel.
As she has been many times this season, Clarissa Kirsch-Downs was the goal scorer for Arundel in the title game at Northeast High School, taking a perfectly weighted pass through a seam in the defense from fellow senior Becky Frost and finishing past Broadneck goalkeeper Kendall Salvas in the ninth minute to give the Wildcats a 1-0 lead.
From that point, it was up to the Arundel defense, and the Wildcats were ready for the challenge. Athletic Broadneck forwards Bri Harris and Ellie McNulty were repeatedly contained, frustrated and diverted from goal by the strangling defense of Frost, Kelly Cottington, Sammy Nimmo, Kayleigh Moody, Brooke Bernet Alissa Marr, Kira Carberry, Rebekah Schrier, Kasey Crider, Jenna Surdick and goalkeeper Tiffany Dayton-Hegedus. Cottington and Moody were exceptional in smothering Broadneck’s greatest scoring threats in Harris and McNulty, while Surdick was her usual self, flying in for the rescue on multiple would-be chances by Broadneck. Dayton-Hegedus was stellar in goal, particularly in the second half when she made the most difficult of her six total saves.
After 80 minutes, Kirsch-Downs’ goal held up, and the Arundel Wildcats were county champions for the first time since 1996.
The win will remain a memorable one, particularly for this year’s seniors.
“It feels amazing,” said Dayton-Hegedus following the final whistle. “We set our minds in the beginning, tryouts and even before then. We were like, ‘This is our chance, it’s our last year, there’s 10 [seniors], we gotta do it. It’s our turn.’”
Head Coach Laura Coe watched her team claim a county title for the first time in four tries.
“This is my fourth time here with the Arundel program going to the county championship,” Coe said with laughter, “and I told the girls that I was tired of being the bridesmaid, and they need to go out and make me a bride tonight, and they did a fantastic job. I couldn’t be more proud of them. They played hard as a team, they did exactly what we coached them to do in practice, and that was to push hard the first 10-15 minutes of each half, punch in an early goal and take a little bit of wind out of [Broadneck’s] sails.”
Coe also praised the defense, which including the Wildcats’ subsequent games against Glen Burnie and Severna Park, surrendered an amazingly low total of five goals from open play in 17 games this season, and only six in all.
“They’re just smart soccer players,” said Coe, adding that the lasting memory of this team will be its deeply-ingrained camaraderie. “This team works so well as a unit. They talk; they do things outside of school together. They write ‘’FAMILY’ all over their arms for games, and that’s truly what these girls are like. They’re like a family to each other.”