- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
BALTIMORE Everyone loves a happy ending, but in the storyline that played out Saturday at The Community College of Baltimore County-Essex, David played by the Huntingtown girls soccer team was unable to slay Goliath played by undefeated River Hill of Howard County.
And as a result, the Hurricanes’ season did not end happily ever after.
Instead, River Hill (18-0 overall) knocked the defending 3A state champion Hurricanes out of the playoffs with three second-half goals for a 3-0 victory.
Huntingtown has reached states the past four seasons and six of the program’s nine seasons.
“It would have been like a Disney movie, it’s like how many years can we get here?” asked Huntingtown head coach Jill Twetten, who lost 10 players from last year’s state-title win. “It’s hard to be that successful that many years in a row. I think losing so many players people … thought, ‘Oh there’s no way we’re going to have a chance’ and I think they’ve surprised themselves, even from the beginning of the season. I’m pleased, [because] this was definitely a rebuilding year.”
River Hill battles C. Milton Wright of Harford County in the state championship on Thursday evening.
“It feels awesome,” River Hill senior midfielder Katie Arensmeier said of the 10-time state qualifiers and three-time state champion Hawks. “Last year we lost early [in the playoffs], so this year our goal was to come out and take one game at a time in order to get here so it feels great.”
River Hill had the early chances. With Huntingtown goalie Emily Chapman down, Sheridan Street chipped a shot just over the crossbar just two minutes in.
Huntingtown got a huge emotional lift in the 30th minute when Chapman dived in front of a penalty kick by Arensmeier to keep the game scoreless.
“She’s usually fast off her line on PKs and she was and I guess she did read her right because it was a great save,” Twetten said of Chapman. “That was important for her to save that because it kept us in it and they were confident and I was very confident.”
“We practice PKs every single day at practice and I’ve always gone the same place to that corner and she was kind of sneaking over to that corner,” Arensmeier said. “But my coach has always told me not to change my shot. I didn’t kick it with enough power, either, so it was my fault.”
Despite being outshot 5-1 in the first half, the two teams were scoreless at halftime.
“We knew this was a powerhouse team and for us to have a chance we'd have to play our best game,” Twetten said, “and I felt in the first half we did. They were spectacular, nearly flawless. In the first half, the girls showed we could have won it. They had it physically, tactically.”
Worrisome at the half
Arensmeier said the fact the Hurricanes were staying with the Hawks was cause for some worry.
“I was really upset and nervous, but our coach told us in the second half we needed to pick it up,” she said, “and we all realized that if we didn’t pick it up, we were going to lose and not go to the state championship. It definitely was nerve-wracking [being tied at the half], but it was also good in a way because it made us realize we all needed to pick it up.”
The Hawks finally connected when Michaela Hennessy converted a cross by Arensmeier in the 59th minute.
“They switched fields fast on us, there was a little off-balance there,” Twetten said, “but it was a good goal and I doubt there was a whole lot defensively we did wrong. So kudos to them.”
That started a three-goal barrage over a span of 17 minutes as Street and Arensmeier tallied in the 65th and 76th minutes, respectively.
“They had a really good defense, so I knew maybe it could be a one-goal game,” River Hill head coach Brian Song said. “But when we put the first one in, Huntingtown had no choice but to push up and it opened it up to our game.”
“Being a little young definitely their minds got them after the first [goal],” Twetten said, “definitely after the second goal. Being a new team, being tired, no Tori in the middle to help us out, I think that’s what caused us to fall apart there.”
Twetten was referring to the absence of junior midfielder Tori Bellucci, who was forced to sit out the game with a concussion.
Bellucci, who is second on the team with 11 goals this season, was injured going up for a header in the 3A South Region final against La Plata on Nov. 5. She passed all but one aspect of a concussion test administered on Thursday and was relegated to the bench.
“I think it was huge,” Twetten said of Bellucci’s absence.
Despite losing so many players from last year’s historic state championship win, the Hurricanes won their first 10 games of the season.
“This season we had a lot of changes,” Huntingtown senior defender Jade Hudson said in a text message. “We had a new team with new styles. After practicing for a few weeks, we worked together as a team better than before. We all put in 100 percent from Day 1. I’m proud of how far we got together as a team. Despite the injuries we had throughout the season, we all pulled through and made it farther than we thought we would. I’m proud to say I was part of the team.”
Teammate Morgan Daughtridge, a senior midfielder, agreed with her teammate’s assessment.
“I wouldn’t trade this season for anything,” she said, also in a text message. “The team worked hard to get where we did and we became very close along the way, making unforgettable memories. We not only meshed well on the field but off as well. I am fortunate to be able to call some of my teammates some of my best friends. We may not have reclaimed the state title, but the season was an incredible learning experience I was blessed to be part of.”
And the state will not be able to breathe easily as the Hurricanes lose just four seniors Daughtridge, Hudson, Amanda Johnson and Hailey Palensky to graduation.
“We have a lot of people coming back so they’re going to get bigger, better, stronger,” Twetten said. “I wanted to leave this game feeling good about how we played win or lose and I felt like I can do that.”