The proverbial clock struck midnight for Long Reach High’s girls’ soccer team Saturday afternoon. Middletown from Frederick County put up three first-half goals and held off the upstart Lightning in a Class 2A state semifinal contest at Bel Air.

The Knights (15-2 overall), seeking a third consecutive straight crown, will play Fallston for the state title this week at UMBC. Fallston, ranked No. 9 in the latest VSN Top 20, defeated Calvert in the other state semifinal Friday evening at Bel Air.

Middletown, which has outscored playoff opponents by a combined 13-3 margin in four games, got on the board just over five minutes after the opening whistle and added two more in quick succession in the middle of the period to put the Lightning – appearing in their first-ever state semifinals – in a huge hole.

“It was really important to us to come out strong so they knew we were ready to play. You want to set the tone,” says Middletown junior midfielder Mary Pritts, who assisted Mary-Kate Afzali on the first goal of the contest and later scored herself off a feed from Stephanie Bidle.

Alizah Johns-Boehme also scored for Middletown, off a pass from Haley Dalphon that occurred just prior to Pritts’ tally.

While Middletown was putting up its three-goal half, Long Reach struggled to control the ball enough to put together scoring chances, but took the initiative much stronger in the second half, forcing Middletown keeper Maria Tartaglia to make several strong saves to keep the lead healthy. She had also made a big stop on a ball at the top of the penalty area that Long Reach’s Kristen Fawole was inches away from striking home in the first half that could have changed the early momentum by tying the score at one.

“[Long Reach’s strikers] were so fast and dangerous and they worked back well to the ball, so we had to really be on point defensively,” said Middletown coach Heather Kline.

With 11 minutes remaining in the contest, the Lightning finally found pay dirt as Ana Rebaza carried down the left side and put a great cross to the goal mouth that Heather Glasser knocked home. But it just wasn’t enough time for Lightning, playing in their first state final four match after winning the North Region championship early last week.

“All I can say is that this team did a great job of fighting for the entire 80 minutes,” says Long Reach coach Erik Sandersen. “We had 3-4 chances throughout the game where if they had gone our way, who knows what would have happened. But for our first time in the state semifinals, I couldn’t be prouder of how we went out fighting.”

Class 2A state girls’ soccer semifinal

at Bel Air

Middletown 3, Long Reach 1

Long Reach 0 1 – 1

Middletown 3 0 – 3

Goals : Long Reach – Glasser; Middletown – Afzali, Johns-Boehme, Pritts

Assists: Long Reach – Rebaza; Middletown – Pritts, Dalphon, Bidle

 

Long Reach (12-6) 0 1 – 1

Middletown (15-2) 3 0 – 3

GOALS: LR – Heather Glasser; MT – Mary-Kate Afzali, Mlizah Johns-Boehme, Mary Pritts. ASSISTS: LR – Ana Rebaza; MT – Mary Pritts, Haley Dalphon, Stephanie Bidle. SHOTS: LR – 7; MT – 17. SAVES: LR – Emily Bradford 6; MT – Maria Tartaglia 7.