The Brunswick High School girls soccer team followed up last year's first Class 1A West Region title and state final appearance with another run to the championship game on Saturday at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
But the outcome was the same.
In a rematch of last year's final, Brunswick once again fell to defending champion Manchester Valley of Carroll County, 3-1.
“[Manchester Valley] has a very strong team and we knew that coming in. I'm proud of our girls, they've come a long way since the beginning of the year,” eighth year Brunswick Dave Herber said.
Brunswick's (10-9-1) region title defense got off to as poor a start this fall.
But Brunswick, which only won two games in September after an 0-4-1 start, took advantage of a system where every team qualifies for the postseason and shined in November.
Despite Saturday's disappointment, the Railroaders can reflect on another historical run. Their 10 wins are second only to last year's 13-win campaign as the most victories in a single season. It also marks the program's third winning season overall.
“I always believed in [the team], but it took us a while to figure out why we were playing so erratically. We knew we had the potential to play at this level,” Herber said. “It was frustrating at the beginning of the season, but we got here. We've played some great soccer the past few weeks.”
As they did in a 5-1 season opening loss to the Mavericks (14-3-2), the Railroaders struck first Saturday when senior forward Dara Demich curled her team-best 28th goal into the back of the net in the 24th minute.
She finished her career as Brunswick's all-time leading scorer with 80 goals.
But Manchester Valley scored twice in the final two minutes of the first half to take a 2-1 lead at the break and never relinquished control after that.
Manchester Valley senior defender Karlyn Warzinski scored the tying goal in the 38th minute on a penalty kick awarded to the Mavericks after Carroll County's leading scorer Jamie Rickabaugh was taken down in the box.
Rickabaugh buried the decisive goal a minute later on a beautiful cross inside the left post.
She added an insurance goal midway through the second half to finish the season with 18 goals.
“[Brunswick's] goal was a wake-up call. When you're down 1-0 you're hoping for overtime. When we scored — at halftime we just talked about — if they don't score, we win,” Manchester Valley coach Joe Miller said. “We wanted to score goals, but we knew if we kept them from scoring we would win. I'm very proud of these girls.”
Manchester Valley 3, Brunswick 1
Manchester Valley (14-3-2) 2 1 — 3
Brunswick (10-9-1) 1 0 — 1
Manchester Valley — Jamie Rickabaugh (2), Karlyn Warzinski.
Brunswick — Dara Demich