For a team focused on earning the next day as a team, the final whistle of Friday’s 3A girls soccer state semifinal brought unbridled joy. Severna Park has earned every day possible, and now there’s only one thing missing from a virtually flawless season.
After a tense opening few minutes, Severna Park proved its mettle and saw off River Hill 3-0 in a virtuoso performance from a squad that still gets better every time out and is peaking at the right moment.
“The girls were fantastic tonight,” said Severna Park coach Rick Stimpson. “We had to do some things different because of their press, but they did a great job of playing through at the right time and going direct at the right time. They really played well, and we’ve gotten to the end. But the goal isn’t to just get there; it’s to finish the job.”
There is no perfection in a soccer game, but Friday’s game seemed as close as they come, even if the dropping temperatures and increasing mist and fog made for an environment more suitable to football than futbol.
The first 10 minutes were frenetic, but eventually Severna Park got a grip on the game and steadily ramped up the pressure. River Hill was reduced to playing for set pieces, with a height advantage seeming to be the Hawks’ only way back into the game.
In truth, the damage was done midway through the first half, when Severna Park scored its second goal — the Falcons have only conceded three goals all season, and never more than once in a game. They saw the game out comfortably for their 13th clean sheet of the season.
“Everyone’s such experienced soccer players, and we can all read the field really well,” said Severna Park defender and captain Francesca Dunoyer. “We focus a lot on not being complacent, especially with 2-0 being such a scary lead, but we wanted to lock it down. This team works so hard for each other, and we know that’s always how it’s going to be.”
Severna Park forward Sara Kreis played a pivotal role in attack as more of a target forward, assisting on the first two goals and then scoring the third. On the first, she got on the end of a cross and flicked a header to Abby Cover, who rounded the keeper and smashed the ball home 10 minutes into the game. On the second, she mishit a cross, but it fell right to Sarah Stefancik, who crashed it in off the post to double Severna Park’s lead.
Kreis provided the final margin early in the second half with a seeing-eye strike from outside the penalty area that snuck inside the far post.
“As we were getting closer to the championships, every single team that we play works hard. Their effort is always great. Once we knew that some of the balls weren’t working, we had to switch some things up and play to our strengths,” Kreis said. “Our chemistry in attack was amazing. I’ve played with these girls for years, but tonight it was like they could read my mind with where I was and where they were going.”
With the win, the Falcons’ drive for their seventh state championship remains on course. They’ll play the winner of Saturday evening’s semifinal matchup between Oakdale and Mount Hebron.
Regardless of the opponent, Severna Park players know they have one more level to hit if they wants to save their best for last. The Falcons will compete for the state championship for an 11th time, looking for their first title since 2003.
“They’re going to want it, but we need to want it more,” Kreis said. “They’re going to fight; we need to fight harder. Never back down until the game is over.”