After just 10 minutes of play, everyone in the stands at Bel Air High School knew Middtown’s Jenna Caudle and Jacky Kessler were going to be dangerous against the Bobcat defense.
And the two senior forwards proved to be just that, Kessler scoring one goal and Caudle pulling a heat trick in the Knight’s 4-0 state semifinal win over the Bel Air Bobcats, Saturday.
“They didn’t stray from what we have done all year,” Middletown Head Coach Heather Kline said. “We’re working hard, winning balls and we just keep pressing, which just turns out to keep working for us.”
In the 13th minute, Caudle put the first points on the board when she laced a pass from sophomore teammate Amanda Giauque, reshaping what was an evenly fought first half into the beginnings of a one-sided battle.
“I think we all just wanted to get motivated before the game and pump each other up,” Kessler explained. “We knew, coming into this game, we had to really work hard and try to get up first, and that’s exactly what we did.”
Trailing 1-0 and seeing just three shots coming from their offense, the Bobcats changed their play at the half and tried to press their offense to score, but the shift made the defense more susceptible to the Knight’s attack, and that’s when the flood gates opened.
The Knights pushed 10 shots towards the Bel Air goal in the second half, evenly complimenting the 11 shots they took in the first, but a cross from Caudle to Kessler in the 59th minute would find its way into the net for 2-0 lead, and leave the rest of the afternoon’s work to Caudle.
“Honestly, I just played really hard today. I wanted to win this for the team,” Caudle said of her three-goal and one assist performance. “My partner over her (Kessler), we play really, really well together. I couldn’t have done it without her help and some awesome balls from her. So I would say it is both of our goals and for the team.”
Ten minutes after Kessler’s 2-0 goal, Caudle notched her second goal of the night into the upper-left corner of the net, and worked through the Bobcat defense three minutes later to record her third goal.
After breaking past all the defenders, Caudle dished the ball and leaped over the sliding goalie in order to put in the 4-0 final.
Bel Air keeper made some fantastic saves in Saturday’s state semifinal showdown, recording 12 saves, eight in the second half, against some of the state’s top shooters.
“She knew coming in that they have three all-state players, so she knew shots and opportunities were going to be coming at her,” Bel Air Head Coach Josh Clemmer said. “In the second half, we had to shift to an offensive formation, which created a lot of opportunities for the other team, and she was just able to handle the balls that went through.
“We always say that when we move to an offensive type formation that we are going to put pressure on our defense and our goalies, and they came up big.”
The Bel Air Bobcats finished the season, 11-5, but the growth as a team was what they will always remember.
“They just had to grow as a team throughout the season,” Clemmer said. “We came in with a whole bunch of players, and young players and people who haven’t played together before, and we kind of just pulled it together each game. The growth of this entire season was what made us a good team.
“They all support each other, so if anyone is feeling disappointed or that they made a mistake, they know they have 25 other girls that have their back and a positive influence on them.”
So what do you say to a team that fell just short of competing for a state title? Clemmer says you just tell them, “Great season.”
“You say, “You are allowed to be disappointed about losing this game, but two days later, you have to reflect on the entire season and see that you made it to the state semifinals, and that is a great accomplishment.”
The Knights have foregone their goodbyes for one more game, and will face the Glenelg Gladiators in the 2A state finals.
“We just need to keep doing what we are doing,” Kline said. “Our team is working so well, and it doesn’t mater if they are on the field for the full 80 minutes or if they are on the bench cheering us on. We have come together as a group and we have stayed that way, and we just keep working and helping each other and just have to stay focused.”
|Middletown 4, Bel Air 0|
MID-Caudle (3), Kessler.
MID-Moore 1, Frushour 2; BA-Rosenberger-12.