Perry Hall girls break through for their first 4A girls soccer state title

by Gary Adornato

With an early 2-0 lead erased and its elusive first state championship possibly slipping away, the Perry Hall girls soccer team turned to one of its big guns, senior forward Kara Dietrich to save the day.

Dietrich scored twice in the final 16 minutes of Friday’s 4A state championship game with Walt Whitman to lift the Gators to a 4-2 victory and their first state crown. Perry Hall (16-3) had been to five previous state finals without a championship.

Dietrich, who came in with 15 goals and eight assists, hit a clutch 22 yard blast, putting the Gators back on top, 3-2, with 16:11 to play. Nine minutes later she added an insurance goal and the Gators were on their way.

(From left) Senior goalkeeper Lauren Gwin, senior forward Kara Dietrich, junior center back Aya Neal and senior forward Phoebe Canoles all started on the 2016 Perry Hall team which lost in overtime the last time the Gators reached the 4A final. Friday they came home with their school’s first 4A state soccer crown.

“When they scored that second goal my heart kind of dropped,” said Dietrich. “We knew we had to give them everything we had, on top of how we were playing. I knew I had to step up for my team and get a goal, and I got two.”

It has only been two years since Perry Hall tasted the bitter sting of an overtime defeat to Montgomery County’s Walter Johnson in the 2016 4A state championship game and the pain has lingered.

The Gators who reached the state finals four times between 1994 and 2003 without a title were ever so close in 2016, only to take home the second place trophy for a fifth time.

“Four years, it’s been my dream to win a state championship,” said Phoebe Canoles, who scored a brilliant goal, with 38 minutes to play, to stake the Gators to seeming insurmountable 2-0 lead.

“All four years we thought every year we were going to win it. We thought this is our year. This year was just different. We knew we were going to work harder than every other year. We got our way to the state championship and it’s best the feeling in the world.”

On her score, Canoles dribbled toward the box as two defenders approached, slid the ball to her left foot, split the defenders and whipped a left-footed shot inside the left post. It was her team-best 20th goal of the season.

Perry Hall’s first goal came early, after some initial pressure by Whitman.

In the eighth minute, Dietrich dribbled out of the left corner and drilled a shot into the center of the box. It was blocked in front by a defender and the Gators’ Annie Kim was able to gather it up, step to an opening and slip a shot into the left half of the goal.

Whitman did not wilt. The Vikings gradually built up some pressure and kept the heat on the Gators over the final eight minutes of the half, creating a couple of corner kicks and one very dangerous direct kick.

Senior Morgan Weise lofted a ball at the left post, which freshman Delaney DeMartino ran under. DeMartino got a header off as she approached the end line, but could not direct it on goal.

The Vikings kept working and finally seized momentum midway through the second half, thanks to some excellent set piece work by Weise., who will play at Princeton next year.

At the 25:10 mark Weise played a free kick into the box, perfectly delivered to Grace Li, who buried a header to cut the Gator lead to 2-1. Then, less than four minutes later, Weiss delivered a ball on goal from the right side. Perry Hall keeper Lauren Gwin leaped and punched it out, but Whitman’s Sophie Nichols was on the spot to fire back the rebound, tying the game.

Two minutes later, Nichols hit the right post and the Vikings clearly had the Gators rattled.

“They just weren’t going to loose,” said Perry Hall coach Matt Smoot on his team’s resilience.

“We had an amazing season,” Smoot continued. “I think we grew more this season than any team I’ve had in my five years as coach. We’ve had some great teams, but this one, went as far as they can possibly go now.”

(at Loyola University’s Ridley Athletic Complex)
WW 0 2 — 2
PH 1 3 — 4
GOAL: PH-Kim, Canoles, Deitrich 2; WW-Grace, Nichols.
ASSISTS: WW-Weiss 2, PH-Willie, Neal.
SAVES: WW-Katie Stender-Moore 1; PH-Lauren Gwin 3.

State Champions