Blazers fail to score for first time all season in 1-0 loss in regional semi-finals
BLAZER STADIUM, Oct. 30 -
It will forever be remembered as a near-perfect season for the Blair girls' varsity soccer team, one that ended far too prematurely in a cold regional semi-final loss Thursday night. The Lady Blazers (14-2) dominated all game, greatly edging the defending state champion Quince Orchard in shots and possession. But in the end, a header goal on a very jumbled play – "flukey" in Blair head coach Robert Gibb's words – was enough for the Cougars to pull off the 1-0 upset as Blair was shutout for the first time all season.
Senior captain Annie Worden, who played on the varsity squad for all her four years, had nothing negative to say. "We played awesome," Worden stated simply. "This season, this game – but stuff happens, and this got away from us."
Blair's domination and plethora of scoring opportunities limited the panic the Blazers felt, even in the closing minutes. "I kept saying, 'It's coming, it's coming,'" Gibb explained after the game. "We didn't lose – we just ran out of time." Indeed, Blair threatened countless times, only to have their dangerous crosses unfinished or their powerful shots deflected.
The Lady Blazers wasted no time in establishing this tone. Just three minutes into the game, sophomore forward Sophia Read beat her defender and fired off a shot that rocketed just wide of the goal. Only a few minutes later, Read again blew by a Cougar and crossed a beautiful ball over the Quince Orchard defense, but no one was there to tap it in.
On defense, junior sweeper Imani Pierre and junior stopper Lauren Kestner effectively shut down the Cougars' offense, denying their strikers possession and never missing a clear. The game's lone goal came off a set-piece with just under ten minutes in the first half. The referees blew their whistle for a foul a few yards outside the 18-yard box, the first penalty of the game. The ensuing kick was low, but popped up at the feet of a Quince Orchard player. The ball then bounced around in the crowded goal area before a Cougar connected her head with it to send it by freshman goalie Lena Meyerson.
Blair opened up the second half with renewed intensity, exemplified in a cross Read sent only seconds in that sailed over the Cougar goalie and bounced just inches from the goal-line. Quince Orchard, playing with championship experience and seeking to win another 4A state title before their possible reclassification to 3A next year, abandoned their offense and packed it in the back. The Lady Blazers kept the ball on Quince Orchard's side of the field for most of the half and found their best chances on penetrating through balls, one of which Worden half-volleyed just over the crossbar, but were unable to find the back of the net.
"Every state-title run needs its luck," Gibb said. "Tonight, we got none."
In such an abrupt ending to a 13-1 regular season where the Lady Blazers coasted through their first ten games before their only hiccup in a Walter Johnson-rematch, it is hard to construe any positives. But there are: this divisional championship team is part of a legacy, Gibb said, which will only be built upon in the years to come. According to Gibb, just three regular starters will be lost to graduation, and the team will be supplemented by incoming junior varsity players, who lost just one game and gave up only two goals all season.
"Sometimes, you can do everything you want and it's still not enough," Gibb said. "We had them on their heels, but we couldn't make it count. Hopefully, this will only motivate us for bigger and better things in the future."
Editor's note: Lauren Kestner is a junior staffer on Silver Chips Online.
Greg Kohn. Greg Kohn is a native Marylander. He's lived in one house his whole life, played soccer since before he could talk, and loves to chant "09" when it's really quiet. He hates being called Gregory, and he wishes he were more organized. He was a … More »