Youthful Centennial uses its experience to upend Hammond

Senior Test scores in 1-0 win to clinch West Regional title

Class 2A girls soccer

High Schools

November 07, 2001|By Kevin Van Valkenburg | Kevin Van Valkenburg,SUN STAFF

Centennial's girls soccer team has so much young talent -- five freshman starters -- that sometimes you almost forget how good senior Sam Test has been for the Eagles.

Almost.

Test did what savvy veterans do best last night, scoring the game-winning goal to help No. 8 Centennial defeat No. 4 Hammond, 1-0, and win the 2A West Regional final at Howard High School. The Eagles will now face J.M. Bennett of Wicomico County in the state semifinals.

"We feel pretty amazing right now because we've worked so hard all year," Test said, fitting back tears. "This is better than what we ever expected."

Expectations are a funny thing. At the start of the season, nearly everyone agreed that Centennial's future looked bright, but the emphasis always seemed to be on the word "future", expecting that it would take time for the Eagles' freshman class to mature and contribute.

Funny, but Test and fellow senior Julie Richter had heard that song and dance before. Both started and immediately contributed on the Eagles' 1998 state championship team, and this season it's been freshman Hayley Siegel, Mandy Paizs, Rosie Goldberg, Tesia Wallace and Laura Tutko that have made an impact as Centennial is 11-3-1.

"They're all so good and have so much energy, they push us to be better," Test said. "They make us work harder every day in practice because they want to play."

None of the freshmen has had more of an impact than the precocious Siegel, a national caliber Olympic Development Program player that starts in midfield. In the 34th minute, Siegel threaded a perfect pass through two defenders right to Test in front of the net, and she calmly flicked it past a diving keeper Tara Zammichieli for the score.

"I was dribbling, I looked up and Sam was just in a great position so I tried to slide it through to her," Siegel said. "Playoffs were a big goal for us. It's been new for some of us, but we've had high expectations for ourselves."

Said Test: "Hayley couldn't have played a better ball through the defense. If I would have missed that one, it would have been pretty bad. I had to score just to do that ball justice."

The goal seemed to wake Hammond (15-2-1), Howard County's regular-season champ, from a first-half daze that saw the Bears get only one shot on goal. But even a halftime pep talk couldn't produce a cure for Centennial's aggressive defense, which stood up to Hammond's physical style of soccer.

"Hammond is an aggressive team that goes hard to every ball," Centennial coach Mike Senisi said. "You can't knock that. But we didn't back away from it or cower in front of them, and I was very pleased at that."

Hammond, which beat Centennial earlier this season, 3-2, in double overtime, couldn't quite find that magic that helped carry it through the first two rounds of the playoffs, when it beat Atholton and Middletown in penalty kicks. Meaghan George made a great cross right in front of the goal late in the second half, but Jessica Basso, marked closely by an Eagle defender, couldn't get a foot on it and Hammond's best chance slipped away.

Said Senisi: "I really didn't expect us to get here. But the work ethic over the past couple of days has been excellent. Before the game, I went around and made sure I talked to each one of our freshman about the magnitude of this, and about what it would take today. Our seniors gave us the leadership and we stepped up and beat a good team."

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