Now in the win-or-go-home stage of the season, the Severna Park girls soccer team has adopted, and embraced, a mantra: earn the next day.
It took a fortunate bounce, a skilled finish, and a composed defense, but the Falcons earned three more days on Tuesday.
A 31st-minute goal from forward Sara Kreis proved decisive as Severna Park stayed alive with a 1-0 win over James M. Bennett, clinching both the 3A East Region I title and the No. 1 overall seed for the 3A state quarterfinals.
Both teams played from early on like they felt one goal would settle the game, and the Falcons were the ones to score it, with a little help from Lady Luck.
A long ball from the defense came to Kreis, who may have been offside but for the fact the ball was helped on by a Bennett defender’s head. Instead of that header clearing the ball away, it skipped straight into Kreis’ path, and she went in alone and fired past the Bennett goalkeeper for the game’s only goal.
“I wasn’t sure where it was going to end up, so it was taking the chance, getting one step behind the defender just in case there was a mistake,” Kreis said. “You just never know in this kind of game.”
Severna Park crafted one more significant chance that was saved, but otherwise the Falcons largely controlled proceedings and saw out a composed victory.
Bennett’s best opportunities came on set plays: a long throw and corner kick in the first half, and another one in the second that led to a long shot. Though keeper Lily Diedrich didn’t have a ton of action, she answered the bell when the time came.
“No matter what happens, it’s anyone game,” Diedrich said. “I’m always just, body behind the ball, because as long as you get that it’s a save, and the defense will get to the ones I don’t. We trust each other a lot.”
The Falcons (15-0-0) move on now to the state quarterfinals, in which they’ll host Towson on Friday.
Home comfort is always an advantage, but the team only needed to look at the opposite bench Tuesday to remember how quickly it can all end. The end of every game brings them back to their mantra: they’ve earned the next day. Now it’s time to earn another.
“We’re going to try to earn a few more days with this special team,” said Severna Park coach Rick Stimpson. “Having so many seniors that went through the disappointment last year, the playoffs remind you that you can be done very quickly.
“Especially for those players that this is their last go-round, they’re fighting to drag this season out as long as possible. They want to keep playing as long as they can, and that’s rubbed off on the younger players who are fighting as hard as they are now too.”
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