Middletown girls soccer's third title sets record -- Gazette.Net



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It didn't hit her, at first.

Middletown High School junior midfielder/forward Mary Pritts was hit by an onslaught of hugs Saturday and it took her a few minutes to wrap her mind around why.

Shortly after 9 p.m. at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Pritts' game-winning goal in the 80th minute of the Class 2A girls soccer state final against Harford County's Fallston helped Middletown make Frederick County history.

The 1-0 win clinched the Knights' (17-2) third consecutive state crown, making them the area's first soccer program to win three in a row at the state level.

“It hasn't sunk in yet,” Pritts said immediately following the game. “All these people keep hugging me and I'm like, 'Wait, did I score?'”

Score she did — with 23 seconds left in regulation — on a textbook left-footed shot from 18 yards out to the left of the goal off a feed from Mary-Kate Afzali.

And the combination brought everything full circle, Middletown coach Heather Kline said.

Though Pritts started the year at forward, Kline dropped her back to the midfield three games into the season, where her creativity helped set up scoring plays for Middletown's strikers, which included Afzali.

It was Pritts who assisted senior midfielder Mackenzie Noel's game-winner in the state final two years ago.

But as the Knights struggled to push forward Saturday against Fallston's high intensity and pressure, Kline instinctively moved Pritts back up top during the second half of the championship while Afzali dropped back.

“I don't know what made me do it. I started her there at the beginning of the season, but then she seemed more comfortable in the midfield. [Saturday] she just didn't seem as comfortable. She was excited when I told her she was going up top,” Kline said.

Though Saturday was Middletown's third championship in as many years, each one, Kline said, is special. And this one, she added, might even be the sweetest.

“I think [each title] has it's own feeling, but I felt more pressure this past week with the fact that it's three and Frederick has not had a team win three consecutive championships. But this is nice in the fact that we have done something no Frederick soccer team has done before,” Kline said.

Each championship team has presented a different dynamic.

In 2010, the Knights were propelled by the county's most dangerous scoring tandem. Last fall, they were backed by one of the stingiest defenses.

This year, the Knights were an overall balanced bunch whose possession style attack worked like well-oiled machinery.

Noel and Pritts, along with sophomore Alizah Johns-Boehme, were remarkable in controlling the middle and they all could take on more offensive-minded roles when necessary.

Saturday was Pritts' 10th goal of the year and she added six assists.

Sophomore Haley Dalphon led the team in scoring with 12 goals and put a lot of pressure on Fallston with her speed and technical ability in the attacking third.

Noel also credited goalkeeper Maria Tartaglia with a big part of the team's success.

The sophomore missed a chunk of the season with a severe bone bruise in her knee, but seemed at full strength on Saturday with several marquee saves.

Scoring had barely crossed Pritts' mind as the clock on the UMBC stadium scoreboard counted down the final 30 seconds of Saturday's state final, she said. Her mind had already shifted toward overtime.

Then Afzali's through ball landed right at her feet.

“I saw where Mary received the ball and I knew it was going in and I could finally breathe again. That's her perfect shot,” Kline said.

jbeekman@gazette.net