A Pasadena rivalry matchup in the playoffs? Yes please.
The girls soccer teams from Chesapeake and Northeast obliged on October 30, with the host Cougars earning a due result—a 2-0 win—against the overmatched but feisty Eagles in the first round of the 3A East playoffs.
Chesapeake’s Ashley Chew finished a cross from teammate Samantha Leo early in the first half, and the Cougars spent the rest of the game pressing and possessing relentlessly before Haley Downin bookended the contest with a goal to lift the Cougars to a 2-0 victory and a spot in the Section II final on November 1.
“Throughout the whole field we’re a little better than we’ve been, especially possessing the ball,” said Chesapeake coach Kevin Keeter, who said his team’s finishing and set pieces need work but that the Cougars otherwise played great. “We possessed the ball the whole game, and we played to the corners. Defensively they covered every over-the-top-ball. So I’m really happy with how we’re playing.”
Chesapeake (10-6) had its season ended in Salisbury just two days later by J.M. Bennett, falling on penalties after playing the host Clippers to a 3-3 tie through regulation and two overtime periods. The victory over Northeast will remain as the Cougars’ final win together in 2018.
Equipped with a speedy corps of midfielders and forwards and an organized defense, Chesapeake was the aggressor from the start against their visiting rivals on October 30. Chew, Downin, Leia Black, Brooke Hurst, Summer Smith and Megan Byle led the charge, putting immediate pressure on the Eagles. Seventeen minutes in, Leo sent a cross in for Chew, who had her initial shot blocked but gathered and sent a blast over the outstretched arm of Northeast goalie Sydney Bell.
“Sammy Leo gave me the assist, I trapped it, it hit off another girl and I hit it back in. Thankfully it went over the goalie and in,” said Chew, noting the emotion of a rivalry showdown in the playoffs. “I’m ecstatic. Always ecstatic to beat your rival. Girls on [Northeast] are my friends, but I love these games, they’re just something else.”
Northeast managed a few incisions in the Chesapeake defense but couldn’t get any great open-play looks at goal. Their best chances came from free kicks after speedy forwards/midfielders Allyson Wills, Kayleigh Cassell, Asylin Weseman, Abigail Zimmerman and Jenna Donahue got far enough up field to draw fouls. They sent a few shots at Chesapeake goalie Sarah Cuttler, who finished with four saves, but Cuttler played a high line to aggressively intervene with Northeast’s long balls forward. Cougar backs Amy Dolan, Kiersten Blanchard, Karlie Stracke and Jessica Calvert had their marks covered and took away Northeast’s over-the-top attacking scheme.
The second half was all Chesapeake. The Cougars relentlessly pressed forward, peppering shots on Bell, who finished with a whopping 14 saves. The Eagles’ core defense of Evelyn Cronise, Madison Hobbs, Hannah Kisielewski and freshman Marissa Ambrose held up well until Downin’s fatal blow in the 78th minute. Downin corralled a cross from Dolan outside the box, made a move and fired a low burner that got past a diving Bell and clanged the left post before bouncing in.
Smith, a senior, said the team played to its strengths to get the all-important rivalry win.
“We have so much speed, and I love it, because we can just send it up there, and we’re all up there, and that’s fun to play with,” said Smith, noting the absence of injured midfielder Emily Barrett, a big loss for the Cougars at playoff time. “Senior year, there’s nothing better than going out there and beating your rivals once last time.”
Northeast (5-6-2) expressed pride for its season. The Eagles went toe to toe with eventual county champion Severna Park in a 1-0 loss, played hard in close losses to Chesapeake and Arundel and generally overplayed their own expectations with good-ole-fashioned grit and hustle.
“I’m proud that no one ever gave up,” said Cassell, a senior captain. “We always played our hardest, every game. No matter if we were going up against South River, Broadneck, we always knew we were going to try our hardest.”
Cronise, a senior and the team’s other captain, said everyone embraced and filled their role.
“A lot of girls we didn’t expect to step up, everyone stepped up, and they all played their hearts out,” Cronise said.
Eagles coach Scott Langlois has built a legitimate program at Northeast and said this year’s crop was another solid group.
“It’s probably one of the funnest years I’ve ever coach,” he said. “These girls never stop. They’re all heart. Practice, games, it doesn’t matter what the score is or how we’re doing, they just play at 100%. I’m just amazed and honored to coach this group of girls. Sad to see the seniors leave, and this year we had great senior leadership. This is a good game and Chesapeake is a good team, and I’m just satisfied with the whole season.”
For Chesapeake, the quick turnaround led to a heartbreakingly close loss to J.M. Bennett, who they defeated in 2017 en route to making the region final. The Cougars have come agonizingly close to making the state tournament over the past few seasons, without yet breaking the threshold.
Chew, a Frostburg commit, said the win over Northeast was the latest positive for an all-around great experience of playing soccer at Chesapeake.
“This team is my family,” Chew said. “We work well together and we all communicate. There’s no individuality. It’s a team, and we work as a unit. My coaches are great, they’re great teachers to teach us what we need to know about soccer. It’s just a great atmosphere to be around.”