River Hill removes all doubt in title win

Hawks' show of power upends Franklin, 3-0, for 3rd straight crown

Class 3A girls soccer

High Schools

November 17, 2001|By Kevin Van Valkenburg | Kevin Van Valkenburg,SUN STAFF

It's been more soap opera than fairy tale at times this year for the River Hill girls soccer team. There have been struggles sprinkled in with the Hawks' usual swagger, and overconfidence has, at times, arm-wrestled self doubt for control of the team's psyche.

Which may explain why winning a state title has never been this much fun.

River Hill won its third straight Class 3A state championship last night, getting goals from Megan Buescher, Ashley Hooper and Kara Lewis for a 3-0 win over Franklin at UMBC. It was the Hawks' fifth consecutive shutout and earned them their fourth state title in the past five years. Only Centennial, with five, has more.

"This one is definitely the best, the most satisfying," said Hooper, the Hawks' lone senior starter. "I've played on a lot of great teams here, but this team has so much trust and plays so unselfish, it's made it that much more special."

Said Hawks goalie Erin Ferguson: "All the other years, we've been expected to win it. But because we struggled and people doubted us, it made us that much more focused coming into the playoffs. It's just an awesome feeling right now."

Franklin (11-7-1), which seemed like just the right kind of overachieving team that could pull off an upset, came out with plenty of emotion, hoping to spoil the Hawks' coronation but wasn't able to translate it into goals.

On the fast, artificial surface at UMBC stadium, the Hawks (13-2-3) put pressure on the Indians all night, outshooting them 26-9 and getting nine corner kicks to Franklin's none. In the 22nd minute, Buescher gave River Hill its first goal by drilling a rebound at the far post, past keeper Alyson Joseph.

To their credit, the Indians did not fold, but they could never really string together enough passes to put serious heat on Ferguson, who had to make only four saves on the night.

"I was really proud of how we hung in there, but we couldn't find a way to get that equalizing goal," said Franklin coach George Wagner. " ... This was our first taste of the state championship, whereas River Hill is here pretty much every year, so hopefully we can build on that and get back next season."

The road back to the title game didn't come as easily this season for River Hill, which had to deal with the midseason departure of one of its top players and a three-game winless streak. But the pieces eventually fit together, just as they had the previous two seasons.

Sophomore Shelley McDuff, who became a starter at midseason, played an excellent game at sweeper, helping hold Franklin's Brandi Sproul and Martha Mitchell in check, and Hooper and Lewis added two goals in the final minute to ice the Hawks' victory.

"I can't describe how much good it feels," Hooper said. "We've overcome a lot. This was a perfect ending to the year."

Goals: RH-Buescher, Hooper, Lewis. Saves: F-Josephs 8. RH-Ferguson 4. Half: RH, 1-0.

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