With its fifth consecutive Central Maryland Conference title on the line Oct. 19 at Hood College, the Urbana High School girls’ soccer team was on the brink of defeat when senior Piper Jons scored with 1 minute, 30 seconds left on the clock to draw the Hawks even with longtime rival Middletown, 1-1, at the end of regulation. However, unlike during the regular season and regional and state tournaments, the game jumped directly to a penalty shootout, with no overtime periods.
Ultimately, the Hawks’ streak of four straight conference championships was snapped in a 5-4 penalty-kick loss. But with 11 seniors, this Urbana team is experienced enough to bounce back quickly with the Class 4A West Region II tournament scheduled on Oct. 23. No. 2 Urbana (10-2-2), which won its second state title in 2016 and reached the state final again in 2017, is scheduled to host Montgomery County’s Gaithersburg in the first round of playoffs.
The Hawks, who fell 1-0 to Baltimore County’s Perry Hall in last year’s Class 4A North Region final, are on a crash course with top-seeded Quince Orchard, another two-time state champion that also made its last state tournament appearance in 2017.
“We got a little bit unlucky, because our goalkeeper (senior Grayson Jons) made two saves (during penalty kicks) but the referee said she moved early,” Coach Keith Bauer said. “Without those calls, we win. But the girls at the beginning picked their own quotes to put on the back of their (team shirts) and one of the sayings is, ‘Setbacks lead to comebacks,’ so that was the first thing I said to the girls (after the conference championship) to get us ready for playoffs.”
Urbana has already done well to recover from one major setback this fall, when senior Riley Johnson, an integral part of the Hawks’ dynamic offense, went down with a season-ending knee injury in a 3-2, overtime loss to Archbishop Spalding on Sept. 27. Urbana, which is also missing capable scorer, sophomore Ryan Harman (mononucleosis), has had to adapt its style of play in recent weeks, but Bauer said he’s been pleased with the Hawks’ ability to adjust.
“We can’t be as quick in our attack; we’re trying to work the ball upfield a little more and use our midfielders and outside backs a little more,” Bauer said. “We’re trying to bring the whole team up together.”
Several players, including Piper Jons and senior Nyah Savage, have done well to step in and take on more prominent roles alongside Urbana’s leading scorer, Bri Skidmore, in Johnson’s absence, Bauer added.
And the Hawks can move forward confidently knowing they’re backed by one of the region’s stingiest defenses. Urbana has allowed on seven goals in 14 games—two of which have been unfortunate deflections off defenders—shutting out nine of its opponents.
“Our defense is still playing well, and we know we’re tough to score against,” Bauer said. “With (so many seniors), these girls have been here before and are used to tight games. We were a little unlucky (during the conference championship game), but the girls are confident and ready for playoffs.”