Both the Severna Park and Arundel girls soccer teams were undefeated coming into their September 26 tilt at Severna Park.
The Falcons handled the showdown by positively dismantling the Wildcats.
Severna Park greeted its guest with an unyielding display of strength on defense, a fluid passing buildup and precision on scoring chances to emphatically earn a 3-0 win.
An opening-moments header by Lena McLaughlin and a brace by Bella Espinoza powered the Falcons, who improved to 6-0-1 overall and dealt the Wildcats (5-1) their first loss of the year.
Home fans in attendance were delighted to watch what first-year head coach Rick Stimpson called the Falcons’ “best performance of the season” and what McLaughlin described as a critical early-season test.
“Going into this game it was obviously going to be a fight because Arundel was 5-0 when they got here, and we knew that,” said McLaughlin. “We just had to make sure we stayed composed. We didn’t want to just kick the ball up the field. We wanted to work it around the back and find our midfielders and forwards, and I think we did a good job of that.”
The Falcons benefitted from a fast start, earning a corner kick less than two minutes into the game. Maddie Altman’s outswinger from the right side went perfectly to McLaughlin, the tallest player on the field, on the six-yard line, and the senior centerback headed the pass powerfully into goal, giving Arundel’s keeper no chance and netting her Falcons a 1-0 lead.
Said Stimpson, “It was important we got that early goal to kind of settle us down and allow us to keep the ball. I thought we did a good job of moving it.”
From there the Falcon girls set about a clinic of passing and attack-buildup. McLaughlin and backs Chase Campbell and Leah Meyers calmly intervened in Arundel’s frantic attempts to advance the ball, taking possession and scanning for openings to midfielders Chloe Nagel and Toni Fiocco-Mizer.
Just before halftime, the clinic reached a boiling point. Campbell passed through Arundel’s attack to Nagel, who turned and passed across midfield to Espinoza. With her back turned to the goal that was still 40 yards away, Espinoza one-timed the ball into the alley for Ellie Lane, then spun around and sprinted down the middle. Lane took a touch down the sideline and sent a cross into the box, where Espinoza booted it in stride for a goal.
All told, the Falcons used four passes and an exacting finish to slice their way through 70 yards of defense and go into halftime up 2-0.
“Not to give too much of the game plan away, but we just try not to be selfish and know our whole thing is to work as a team,” said Nagel of the team’s precision passing. “There’s three of us in the midfield, and we work on moving together with the ball and not being selfish. Our goal is to move it forward. [Midfielders are] not supposed to score, so we don’t keep the ball.”
After the break, the display continued. Nagel won a header in her own half, leaping over the defense to head to ball to Toni Fiocco-Mizer. Fiocco-Mizer muscled the defense away from her while protecting the ball before slotting a pass across the middle to Espinoza, who thumped a 15-yard screamer from the right side of the box past Arundel’s goalie, banging the underside of the crossbar with her shot that landed in the net for a 3-0 lead.
Espinoza leapt in joy and hugged her teammates, an exclamation point on the Falcons’ definitive vanquishing of the visitors.
A senior, Espinoza said she and fellow forward Ella Raines share the mentality to attack, attack, attack.
“Our whole goal is to score goals,” Espinoza said. “That’s the mentality I have being a forward, so I’m just trying to get the ball and get it in the back of the net. It helps when you have a defense to back you up and a midfield to back you up. It makes my job so much easier because I cannot score goals without them.”
With the Wildcats in a vice, the reserves got in on the action, and the Falcons continued playing hard until the final whistle and a round of deserved high-fives.
While the offense produced three dream-material highlights, the shutout was the latest show of defensive prowess for the Falcons, who have surrendered only two goals all year, one of which was a penalty kick. Severna Park’s only non-win came on September 19, when they played Broadneck to a scoreless draw.
Stimpson, who took over the program that former head coach Brian Morgan led to the state tournament last season, said the experience of the team (there are 13 seniors on the roster) and the character of the players have made the transition smooth.
“It’s always tough coming in your first year, but having all that experience and 13 seniors makes it much easier for me,” Stimpson said. “We’re trying to continue pretty much the style of play they had last year — Brian did a great job with them. We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel. They play the right way, they’re a passionate group, they work hard for each other, and my job is just to maintain that and help out wherever I can with little bits of info here and there.”
Severna Park has several challenging games remaining on the schedule, with notable matchups at South River on October 3 and home to Chesapeake on October 17.