Reservoir senior midfielder Katlyn Axenfeld was mobbed by her teammates. She didn’t know why, from her vantage point it looked like the corner kick that she had just sent in hit the outside of the net.
But much to her surprise, her kick bounced off Huntingtown goalie Shelby Taylor’s fingertips into the goal, lifting the No. 7 Gators to a 1-0 win in the Class 3A State championship game held at UMBC on Thursday night.
“In practice, we work on getting corner kicks to the six [yard line], and that’s where I was aiming,” said Axenfeld. “But the wind was going towards the way we were scoring. I saw the goalie come out, and she was really tall, so I was expecting her to grab it.”
“I thought the ball was out of play and then I was just running back and people came running at me. I was really surprised,” she added. “[The team] told me that the goalie touched it and it went back; I guess it would have been nice if I saw it.”
“It was a corner and she kind of curved it in,” said Taylor. “I guess the wind kind of helped it too. I had my finger tips on it but I just couldn’t get all of my hand on the ball and it slid right past me.”
Reservoir (15-3-1) returned to the Class 3A state title game for the second straight season after falling to Tuscarora, 3-2, in last year’s championship. This time around, there would be no stopping the Howard County team from wearing the crown.
“I think Huntingtown played extremely well,” said Reservoir coach Josh Sullivan in his third season. “I give them a lot of credit. They played to feet well, they made us work and they split us a lot. Defensively, we did a lot of bending but not breaking.”
Axenfeld’s goal came with 5:33 left in the first half, giving the Gators the advantage but she knew the team had to continue to work hard to get redemption after last season’s disappointment.
“We learned from last year that we needed to come here and be serious,” she said. “Last year, we were so excited that we were here and then we weren’t serious in the game and we were chasing [Tuscarora]…We knew we couldn’t come here and lose again.”
The Gators defense, led by Delany Reiff, Lauren Ignacio, Breanna Marsh, Blair Bonner and Cara Dooley, kept Huntington from placing a shot on goal until the last 12 minutes of the match. In the last three playoff games prior to last night’s contest, Reservoir had not allowed a goal.
The Hurricanes made the most of their chances in the final few minutes though. Huntingtown midfielder Micaela Antzoulatos sent in a corner kick that was batted away by Reservoir goalie Megan Fowler.
Seconds later, Antzoulatos sent in another corner but again, Fowler knocked the ball away before any Hurricanes (15-3) could get a scoring opportunity. On the third consecutive corner kick, Gators senior Megan Jackson cleared the ball away.
With about five minutes left to play, Fowler (four saves) saved a header attempt and blocked another shot attempt seconds later, preserving Reservoir’s lead.
“I sure liked the second half better than the first half,” said Huntingtown coach Jill Tweeten. “I thought we had a lot of opportunities to score in the second half, I felt that we looked really good…”
Reservoir, the Class 3A East Regional champion, controlled the run of play throughout the first half. Gators sophomore Amanda Jackson carried the ball into the box and placed a right-footed shot on goal but Taylor made an amazing kick save with 27:10 to go until halftime.
Two minutes later, Axenfeld crossed the ball to Amanda Jackson, who put a shot on goal but was again saved by Taylor.
Despite the Hurricanes’ advances in Gator territory, the defense took over and showed the poise of a team that had been in the pressure situation of a championship game before. Reservoir held off a late assault to claim the title.
“I thought their defense was really fast. They played quick and stepped to the balls quicker than I could even think to get to them,” said one Huntingtown player after the game.
“The corners kick were tough but I knew were going to win,” said defender Reiff with a smile on her face. “We just defended them really well and Megan Fowler did a great job punching out the balls.”
Senior forward Megan Jackson said that winning to coveted championship was a dream realized:
“It was our goal from the very beginning of the year to win states and we got here. It was our goal to win states, not to get to states.”
CLICK RELATED VIDEO TAB AT TOP LEFT FOR HIGHLIGHTS AND POST GAME INTERVIEWS.
|No. 7 Reservoir 1, Huntingtown 0|
Reservoir-Fowler 4; Huntingtown-Taylor 7.
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