Most people appreciate an underdog.
The four-time defending state champion Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School girls soccer team came as close to being one as a top seed and state title favorite could be this postseason.
While the Barons’ fifth-straight state final appearance — scheduled for Friday at 7:30 p.m. at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County against Anne Arundel County’s South River — is no surprise, they had to work a lot harder to get there this fall than recent history.
Winning, longtime B-CC coach Rob Kurtz said, doesn’t get old. But it has certainly become the norm for the Barons, especially in November.
Despite earning the No. 1 seed in the Class 4A West Region tournament, 2004 state champion Walt Whitman was touted by many coaches as this year’s most talented squad, top to bottom.
After narrowly escaping a strong Quince Orchard team in the region semifinals, the Barons (13-3) were under siege for the majority of a 1-0 win over the Vikings in last week’s region final.
But B-CC was truly pushed to its limits in Saturday’s state semifinal win over Sherwood, 4-3, in penalty kicks.
For the first time in a long time, another state title run looked in doubt.
With the teams tied at 3-3 in penalty kicks after 100 minutes of scoreless soccer, Warriors defender Kelly Flamand set up for the 10th and final kick of the first round, one kick away from sending Sherwood to its first ever state final and B-CC into the offseason.
But in typical Barons fashion, they escaped a high pressure situation like it was nothing.
This time it was B-CC senior goalkeeper Angela White who came up big — she has been the difference for the Barons this postseason — making another remarkable save on Flamand’s well-placed kick to the far post.
“I’ve never seen a goalie get out that far. She did a great job [Saturday], it was like she had 8-foot arms,” Sherwood coach John Vukovich said. “We lost maxing out everything we could do.”
Though B-CC’s wins have been less decisive this year than they were at the beginning of this remarkable five-year run, the Barons are not short on talent.
As always, they’re extremely skilled and technical through the midfield and boast playmakers like three-year starter Eliza Doll (eight goals), Alix Emden (three), Caroline Khanna (six), C.C. Rozen (two) and freshman Paula Germino-Watnick (three).
Their historically stingy defense remains nearly impenetrable. Led by White, Zoe Mesirow, Denali Minnick and Rachel Cady, B-CC’s back line has surrendered just nine goals in 16 games.
But scoring has been an issue — the Barons have only won two 4A games by more than one goal.
Still, their experience, winning tradition and sheer will seem to shine when everything is on the line.
White said much of that ability stems from the Barons’ desire to play for each other, to help each other succeed.
And that could be B-CC’s biggest strength heading into Friday’s final against a team that has scored 76 goals this fall.
But just as Quince Orchard, Whitman and Sherwood before it, two-time state champion South River will learn that finding the net against B-CC is unlike most challenges.
And the Barons can be extremely dangerous on the counterattack.
B-CC might not instill the same fear in its opponents these days, but the Barons have the uncanny ability to turn precarious situations into victory.
“I never believe we are out of it. I know a log of people say that, but I truly believe it,” Kurtz said.