The defense was stalwart. The midfield kept possession and orchestrated pacey buildups. The goals came in a 20-minute wave, with incisive passes and well-timed runs setting up precision finishes.
Altogether, the Chesapeake girls soccer team showed why it might be the best in the county — and possibly beyond — with a 4-0, senior-night win over visiting Northeast on October 12.
Two goals by senior Ashley Chew, a goal and two assists by Brooke Hurst, and a goal and an assist by freshman Ella Shannon powered the victory for the Cougars, who improved to 8-1-2 overall.
Chew agreed the Cougars are gelling on multiple levels this season.
“We work better together this year,” Chew said. “We all click.”
The Cougars’ connectivity was evident throughout a first half in which they pinged the ball through the midfield, put it on each other’s feet and found space to run. If it was possible to earn three assists on a single goal, the Cougars did it on their opening score. Center back Jessica Calvert dispossessed speedy Northeast freshman forward Caitlyn Cornwell with a stiff tackle and passed wide to outside back Lauryn Hill. Hill sent a pass quickly across midfield to Hurst, who turned and placed a perfect through-ball to Shannon. Shannon had a clear one-on-one with Northeast keeper Sydney Bell and passed the ball into the bottom corner of the net for a 1-0 lead on 12 minutes.
Chesapeake doubled its lead minutes later, when Hurst skillfully sent another through-pass to Chew, who punctuated her run with a goal and a 2-0 advantage.
Hurst and Shannon traded roles for Chesapeake’s third goal, as the freshman midfielder found Hurst, a junior, with another pass from the midfield through Northeast’s back line, and Hurst slotted her shot low for a 3-0 lead.
Chesapeake made it 4-0 before halftime on a throw-in by Hill. Hurst came to meet Hill’s throw, but her move to receive the throw was actually a crafty dummy, allowing Chew to race in behind her and corral the ball untouched with a head full of steam heading to goal. Northeast’s Rebekah Butler came flying in to block Chew’s first shot attempt, but Chew’s momentum carried her and the ball to the edge of the goal, where she buried her second attempt for a 4-0 lead.
“I think we finished a ton better than we have been all season,” said Chew, a Frostburg commit, when asked what helped the Cougars to success on their senior night. “We’ve been focusing on our finishing and doing it quick, with speed, and that’s what we did today, quick one-two’s, and we worked inside-out the whole game.”
Northeast played with pride in the second half, showing their conditioning by running relentlessly and competing hard, shutting out the Cougars despite continued excellent passing and attacks by Chesapeake. Freshman goalie McKenzie Lanham made a pair of dazzling diving saves in the half for the Eagles to keep the final score at a respectable margin.
Eagles coach Scott Langlois has a characteristically Northeast team — endless fight, no quit, no excuses, resilient play and pride in its small roster’s conditioning against typically deeper opponents.
“From our goalies, both goalies are phenomenal, to our defense, our defense comes in and they work extremely hard, to our midfielders, everyone’s working together, and our striker has so much speed up there,” Langlois said. “The biggest thing is they work together as a team and trust in each other. It’s not like we have a couple people trying to do it all. They’re very cohesive. They’re all very solid players. They’re one my favorite teams to coach because they’re such great girls. There’s no attitudes. They work hard every single practice. They try to get better. They ask questions. They try to improve.
“The girls are very conditioned, so when we get to that second half we’re able to run a little bit more than the competition. They like to run, and it shows. They don’t get tired out there. It helps us out. I’m excited. I’m sure we’ll see Chesapeake again in the playoffs. We’ve got to change some things up. It was four goals, but it was four foot-race goals. They just got through us. I thought we played real good from 18 to 18, probably the best we’ve played with them. We’ll have something for them.”
If a rematch happens, the Cougars will be waiting and confident, as they’re enjoying one of their finest seasons. Chesapeake has a pair of signature results, getting a 2-2 tie against South River on September 11 and a 3-0 win over Broadneck on September 17. Against the Bruins, Chew, Shannon and senior Leia Black scored, with Hurst, Black and Shannon all recording assists and Sarah Cuttler making six saves.
A 1-0 loss to Arundel on September 24 is Chesapeake’s only blemish; otherwise, the Cougars have allowed only seven total goals, and all eight of their wins are shutouts.
With forwards Sammi Leo and Morgan Brown; midfielder Emily Barrett; backs Hill, Jessica Calvert, Julia Calvert, Amy Dolan and Megan Miller; and a deep roster of strong reserves, the Cougars have the depth and ability to break through the region come playoff time, said head coach Kevin Keeter.
“This has probably been one of our deepest teams in terms of we can bring people off the bench when we haven’t historically,” said Keeter. “Our back line is really solid, not giving up a lot of goals. And offensively, we’re dangerous. We’re scoring some goals. Our central midfield is playing really well and distributing the ball, so I think the depth of the team and then how we’re moving the ball, and we’ve got speed up top, those are our strengths.”
Dolan, a junior captain on defense, said the team is working as one to build its attacks from the defense on up to the forward.
“We’re starting to click with our midfield more and using our wall passes, which is making us successful,” Dolan said. “We know that we have to make a run after we pass and that we can’t sit still. We’re working off of rebuilding seasons, and it is finally coming together.”
If the Cougars can defeat North County on October 15 and win at Severna Park on October 17, they’ll clinch a spot in the county championship on October 22 for a likely rematch with South River.
Chew and Black agreed that this year’s team can take Chesapeake further than any Cougar outfit in over a decade; Chesapeake last advanced to the state tournament in 2005.
“I think this is the team that’s wanted it the most,” said Black, a senior. “I’ve been [on varsity] since freshman year. We want it. We want to go as far as we can in the playoffs.”