- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
H-town girls score late to upend La Plata, win 3A South
By MICHAEL REID
The Huntingtown girls soccer team will get a chance to defend its state girls soccer championship.
The Hurricanes are getting that chance after ekeing past La Plata 3-2 in dramatic fashion in the Class 3A South Region championship on Monday.
“We’re so excited,” said Huntingtown’s Hailey Palensky. “We started the season and our goal was to get back to states, so we pushed the whole season and we’re glad we're going back.”
“Oh yeah, definitely [I’m excited to go back],” said Huntingtown head coach Jill Twetten of her team's third straight foray to the state semifinals. “I feel [we’re] the best team in the region, I always have, but the best team in the region doesn’t always make it.”
The top-seeded Hurricanes (15-2 overall) will face River Hill which emerged from the East bracket after a 2-1 win Monday over Atholton of Howard County on Saturday at CCBC-Essex in Baltimore County. The time of the match was not known at press time.
“If we play our game, play to feet, connect our passes and win 50-50 balls, we should be OK,” Palensky said. “We have some confidence because we were there last year, but at the same time, we want to defend our title.”
Huntingtown extended its season by at least a few more days, but it certainly wasn’t easy. The Hurricanes trailed 1-0 early but bounced back with two goals only to see the third-seeded Warriors (8-8-1) tie the game in the 59th minute.
It appeared the two teams would need overtime to determine a winner, but Huntingtown connected on a fortuitous play with just 2 1/2 minutes left in regulation.
Huntingtown’s Tori Bellucci sent a corner kick toward the box where teammate Rebecca Sweredoski fired a shot on goal. The ball hit La Plata goalkeeper Paige DeMent, who was rushing out to cut down the angle, in the throat and she crumpled to the ground.
Play continued and Huntingtown’s Sarah Osborne kicked the ball out to Kaitlin Hudson, who scored on the empty net.
“I really didn’t know what was going on, but I saw it and went for it,” Hudson said. “I just said, ‘Oh there it is’ and shot it and it went in the back of the net.”
“It is [a tough call],” La Plata head coach Kevin Barry said. “I think it all depends on the situation. it’s an unfortunate way to lose. You work hard and you have to give credit to Huntingtown. The ball was loose and they played to the whistle; all the coaches coach you to play to the whistle and they kept going and it happened to bounce right to them. Real unfortunate for us.”
DeMent was attended to for several minutes and left the game.
“I went down and I just couldn't get my breath,” said DeMent, who still felt the effects of the shot almost 20 minutes later. “Personally, I think when the goalie goes down and they’re down that long, they should blow the whistle no matter where the ball is. But they just kept playing.”
DeMent made 11 saves, several from point-blank range.
“I was real nervous at the start, but I’m a senior so every time I looked at the clock I saw the season ending, so I just worked my butt off to help the team out,” she said.
La Plata had one last good chance when Destinee Morris raced down the middle on a partial breakaway. She became entangled with a Huntingtown defender and the ball rolled just feet away from the open side.
“I got tripped and so when I was kicking it my feet got tangled up; I got taken out,” said Morris, who plans to play soccer at the University of Maryland Baltimore County next season. “It’s a tough loss. Goalie goes down, gets kicked in the face, ball gets loose, we lose and then two minutes after that, we miss a goal by two feet. But I’m pretty proud, we made it here and we seem to make it here every year, but it sucks not to win, but we tried our hardest. The game could have gone either way because it was back and forth, so I’m proud of us.”
Twetten said the Hurricanes' 2-0 regular season loss to the Warriors loss, which was the Hurricanes’ first of the season after 10 wins, provided plenty of ammunition for her players.
“Oh my gosh, yes,” Twetten said when asked if her players were hungry for revenge. “I think that fueled the fire for sure. If we had beaten them during the regular season, maybe it would have been a different result, but they wanted it back bad. Honestly, that was maybe the best thing to have happened to them during the regular season was to lose to them and see them in the finals. We had the advantage there.”
La Plata jumped into the early lead when it was awarded a penalty kick after a player was taken down in the box and Alison Norris buried the shot in the 11th minute.
“It made me really angry because I really didn't think it was inside the box,” Twetten said with her face scrunched up, still clearly miffed at the call. “It was very important [to get past that], but I also knew they had the wits about them to get past it.”
Osborne tied the game in the 32nd minute and Hudson buried a rebound attempt in the 45th minute to give Huntingtown its first lead of the season over the Warriors after 125 minutes of playing time.
But the resilient Warriors refused to fold and just 14 minutes later, Alex Stapleton beat Huntingtown goalkeeper Emily Chapman to the ball to tie the game and set the stage for the late-game dramatics.
The Warriors stumbled out of the gate after losing their first four games.
“We just weren’t clicking, so we made some adjustments,” Barry said.
La Plata then rebounded to win five of their next six.
“There was no quit in them, regardless of when they got down,” Barry said. “We have a team of nine seniors and they lead the way. I’ve got two real talented girls in Destinee and Alison and they kept us together when we were struggling or brought them back up to get us back on track.”
Huntingtown 2, Northern 1
The Hurricanes earned their berth in the final after a thrilling 2-1 come-from-behind win over visiting county rival Northern on Saturday in the semifinals.
Huntingtown scored the eventual winning goal in the 73rd minute when Osborne raced down the right side and placed a shot past Northern goalkeeper Maggi Buckley and off the left post.
“It was a good pass from Tori [Bellucci], she’s a really good midfielder,” Osborne said. “[Buckley] had [the short side] pretty well covered, so I tried to look where she wasn’t and tried to place it well. I was too overwhelmed in the moment, I was just hoping it would go in.”
“It was just a beautiful shot,” said Buckley said, who finished with 16 saves. “It was great placement. I give her props.”
The fourth-seeded Patriots (5-8-2) had won their previous three games.
“They’re a good team and good luck to them,” Northern head coach Jay Loveless said. “We were embarrassed last time we played them [a 4-1 loss on Sept. 24] and we wanted to come out and show them we were better than that. The girls played their heart out tonight and I promise you Huntingtown knows they were in a soccer game [tonight].”
“This game’s always a hard game; we always play them well,” said Northern’s Natalie Dawes, who opened the scoring on a breakaway goal two minutes in. “[I’m] very, very, very proud. We played hard, there’s nothing more we can ask.”
Osborne tied the game when she redirected a cross in the 22nd minute.