By the time the 4A East region produces a champion in girls’ soccer at the end of this month, at least a couple county rosters will have their hearts broken, while the one that emerges will have the confidence of knowing it has defeated some really, really good teams.
Such are the knocks of competition in this region, as the Arundel and South River girls’ soccer teams can fully attest. And, like they did in their matchup in last year’s region final – a 3-2 South River win -- the Wildcats and Seahawks staged yet another epic duel on September 18, with the Seahawks again taking a 3-2 win on Kat Wray’s overtime goal.
South River, which had fallen, 3-2, to Broadneck after leading 2-0 two days prior, needed the win to reassert control of their county schedule.
“Losing that game to Broadneck, I think it shocked us in a way,” Wray said. “We were a little shocked losing when playing so hard. My freshman year we came out and lost 3-1 to Broadneck, and I had never seen my seniors so upset. Now it’s my position, and I was so upset we lost. We just said we’ve got to keep our heads up.”
Easier said than done with Arundel, which had its own intentions for the county and the chance to put the Seahawks in a two-loss hole. The Wildcats jumped out to a 1-0 lead over South River when Clarissa Kirsch-Downs’ pass from midfield put Becky Frost into acres of space in the 11th minute, giving her a successful one-on-one with South River goalie Emily Proctor.
South River created several chances in response, but it took until the 29th minute before the Seahawks equalized on Katie Berkowitz’s penalty kick after a Wildcat foul inside the box.
The Seahawks got the start they wanted in the second half, taking a corner kick (one of eight South River corners on the day) that rattled around in the box through multiple attempts to clear before Kacie Longo headed it home for a 2-1 lead at 42 minutes.
Like its opponent in the first half, Arundel needed 18 minutes to equalize, and the moment came when Jenna Surdick’s long pass over South River’s back line was corralled by Kirsch-Downs, who booted it in off a South River deflection to knot the game at 2-2.
Yasemin Yazici nearly swung the Wildcats back in front in the 67th minute, but her low shot attempt was saved by Proctor diving to her right.
South River had a chance to snatch the game in regulation in the 83rd minute when Kenidy Springer’s shot was partially blocked by Arundel goalie Tiffany Dayton-Hegedus, giving Alissa Marr time to race back and clear it just as it reached the goal line.
The Seahawks nearly nicked a goal just seconds before full time when a South River corner came to Wray, who put a high shot towards the top of the net at the near post. In a split second it got past the outreached hand of a diving Dayton-Hegedus but was emphatically rejected by Kayleigh Moody’s jumping header.
The final opportunity came just two minutes into overtime when a South River free kick fell to Wray’s feet, letting her square up from six yards and blast home the game-winner.
“We always know we have a showdown with Arundel, every single year, every single game is so competitive. Then it comes to [tonight], and just the amount of energy that’s on both teams is phenomenal. Arundel is a great team, and South River, I love my team. I’m just really glad we pushed that one in.”
Since, both teams have continued their strong play. At 8-2 through October 6, the Seahawks have notched clean-sheet wins over Meade, Glen Burnie, Northeast and Southern. They did enough to get past Annapolis, 2-1, on September 24 and, aside from the loss to the Bruins, have lost only to reigning IAAM A Conference champion Spalding in the season-opening Anne Arundel Community College tournament.
Arundel (8-1) has treated the South River loss as a hiccup and continued to dispense opponents methodically, winning over Annapolis, Chesapeake and Old Mill as well as out-of-conference opponent Mount de Sales.
“The girls are very focused right now on not taking any team lightly,” said Arundel Head Coach Laura Coe in early October. “They are all healthy and really working hard in practice to improve the details of their game. The girls continue to be fueled by the desire to prove themselves, and their trust and confidence in each other shows in every game they play.”
Northeast and North County occupy the second week of the month for the Wildcats before Arundel closes the county schedule with back-to-back showdowns at Severna Park on October 14 and home to Broadneck on October 16.