In the moments after officially inking her letter of intent to continue her soccer career at Coastal Carolina University, Northern senior Taylor Tolson thought a bit about the opportunity she and her teammates have Saturday afternoon, when they play Wilde Lake for the Class 3A state championship. A year ago, the Patriots won the 3A crown, the first state title in the program's history.
“It means a lot to me, especially being a senior,” she said of tomorrow's game against the Howard County program, set for a 2:30 p.m. start at Loyola University's Ridley Athletic Complex in Baltimore. “I want to end on a good note. Having another state championship, the second year in a row, that would be really cool. I think it's really cool that we're doing that. It means a lot to me, especially being a senior. I want to end on a good note. Having another state championship, the second year in a row, that would be really cool.
Northern (16-3 overall), which was the No. 2 overall seed among the 3A state quarterfinalists, shut out C.M. Wright of Harford County and Linganore of Frederick County in the state quarterfinals and semifinals, outscoring the teams by a combined 9-0 to hit the final with some apparent steam.
Fifth-seeded Wilde Lake (10-4-1) defeated Chesapeake of Anne Arundel County in penalty kicks in the state semifinals and topped Mt. Hebron 3-1 the round before. Still searching for their first state crown, the Wildecats have reached three previous state finals, most recently in 2015.
La Plata, Leonardtown boys play for first state crowns
Among other soccer programs searching for a first state title, La Plata's boys soccer team played for the 2A state championship on Thursday night in Baltimore versus Century of Carroll County, a contest was played too late for inclusion into this edition, while Leonardtown's boys squad will be making its first state final appearance at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in Baltimore against second-seeded Walt Whitman (15-1) in the 4A final. The Montgomery County program is the defending champion and has 10 state championships on its résumé.
The top-seeded Raiders (19-0) may not have the past success of their opponent, but Leonardtown head coach Robert Hor believes the program can stand up to any.
“When you look back at the last six years of so we've had some unfortunate breaks when it comes to the regional finals,” Hor said, referencing some unfortunate circumstances that have befallen past teams over the years. “We've had some terrible breaks. I understand that happens to all teams, but we've had talent for a long time.
“Leonardtown has a program that we have built and our alumni do their best to pass along the Leonardtown way. That's what we build upon, the Leonardtown way.”
Long residing in one of the toughest regions in the state, the 4A East that is also home to many perennial powers from Anne Arundel County, Leonardtown was never able to find its way out. That changed this year, as the Raiders knocked off both Broadneck and Severna Park to win the 4A East Region II title, then blanked Montgomery Blair 5-0 in the state quarterfinals before dispatching Arundel 1-0 in the state semifinals. All of which has the Raiders believing they can bring home the program's first state championship trophy Saturday night.
“We want to play our game,” Hor said. “We believe that we have one of the strongest if not the strongest team in the state. I don't say that in an egotistical way, rather I say that in a confident way. I know the amount of training our boys have put in and I've seen teams across the state and I feel that we can compete with anyone.”
Calvert girls return to state finals
Calvert's girls, stymied in their quest to add to the state championship trophies in their school's trophy case by Howard County's River Hill in regional play over the past couple of years, will make their first state final appearance since 2016 in the 2A state championship game against third-seeded Middletown of Frederick County at 5 p.m. Saturday in Baltimore.
Seeded fifth, Calvert (13-3) rolled through the 2A South Region field in lopsided fashion before defeating Kent Island 5-2 in the state quarterfinals and surviving a 1-0 overtime state semifinal win against Century.
“It's great to be back in the finals,” Calvert head coach John Baker said. “I think this group was excited when they came in as freshmen and made it. This group has six seniors that have been there before. The nice thing is they've shared that story with the other girls, saying, 'You never know when you'll get here. Don't assume you're always going to make it to the finals.' That sort of helps set the tone for how serious it needs to remain. They keep training hard.
“It looks like they're ready for Middletown. They've seen them play once and we've watched a little bit of tape on them. They're a very strong defensive team, very structured all over the field. It looks like they have a good coach who keeps them pretty baselined and focused on what they're trying to do. It should be a good challenge.”
Calvert, which won its only previous state championship in 2014, was challenged by a regular season schedule that always includes Southern Maryland Athletic Conference Chesapeake Division powers in Huntingtown, Leonardtown and Northern, and then over the past couple of games leading into the showdown with Middletown (15-1). All of which has Baker believing his team is adequately prepared for what lies in front of it.
“I think that SMAC and Southern Maryland is very underrated for how prepared we were for states,” Baker said. “With four teams representing SMAC in the finals it goes to show there is good competition down here. If you're not playing good competition, it doesn't get you ready for games like we had with Century. ... Century was a great test. I think that's a perfect way to get ready for a final. We didn't have many challenges [in the postseason] until Kent Island and then Century was really tough. It was good to get that in before the final, so they're back focused and ready to go and on a little bit of a streak now, which is really nice.”