In his final high school soccer game, St. Mary's-Annapolis senior midfielder Pete Bruce accomplished two things he'd wanted to do since joining the varsity as a sophomore: score a goal and win a championship.
Bruce's goal with 11 seconds remaining in the first half proved to be the difference in a 1-0 victory over Friends School in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association B Conference championship game Saturday at the University of Maryland Baltimore County in Catonsville.
"I couldn't have picked a better time to do both," said Bruce, a two-year starter. "It's something I'm going to remember for the rest of my life."
The Saints (13-3) concluded one of the best seasons in school history by winning their first conference title since 1997 and their third overall.
"This is something we've all been working to get for a long time, and it finally happened," said senior midfielder Joel Bidnick. "It feels great as a senior to bring the trophy back to Annapolis."
St. Mary's was outplayed for most of the first half but capitalized on its best opportunity in the final minute. Bruce outran the defense to chase down a shot by Bidnick that had been deflected by the goalkeeper and was headed out of bounds. But just before it crossed the end line, Bruce connected with his right foot and curved the ball into the far corner of the goal.
"I've had chances to score before, but I've always missed them," Bruce said. "So when I saw Joel kick the ball, I saw that I had my chance, and I finished it."
Said Friends Coach Doug DeSmit: "We knew St. Mary's was going to kick the ball downfield and go after it and capitalize on a mistake. The mistake on that play was that we didn't clear it out of the midfield when we had the chance, and it ended up costing us."
St. Mary's won the conference's Division I regular season title and defeated two-time defending champion Boys' Latin in the tournament semifinals, 2-1, in double overtime. The title game concluded the high school careers of 17 seniors, including nine who have played together on the same Annapolis-based club soccer team since sixth grade.
"Most of this team has been together for so long and been friends for a long time," Bruce said. "It's a great way to go out."
The Saints also say the victory gives their team credibility in a soccer-rich county often dominated by highly successful public school teams Severna Park and Old Mill, with Broadneck and Arundel also making strong showings this fall.
"We never get the recognition or respect as some of the public schools do," Coach Myles Healy said. "But I think that is beginning to change, and now I think more teams out there are going to see that we're a very good team."
For Cavs, the Wait Goes On
During this girls' soccer season, Spalding Coach Bob Dieterle took his team into the gym to show them the championship banners on the wall.
There was no banner for girls' soccer. And the Cavaliers will have to wait another season to try to fill that void. Spalding fell to John Carroll in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference championship match in a shootout Sunday at Calvert Hall.
Sophomore Christine Nairn scored first for Spalding -- her team-leading 16th goal of the season -- on a penalty kick she placed to the left as the keeper went right.
John Carroll answered with a penalty shot of its own by Melissa Gomes with 6:32 left in regulation. After a scoreless overtime, John Carroll won the shootout, 3-2.
Spalding (17-3), which went undefeated in the conference regular season, will lose five seniors but will return a strong core group of players, including Nairn, sophomore goalkeeper Karen Blocker, junior defender Jennah Yunger and freshman forward/defender Erica Page, who had nine goals this season.
"They're a tough group. We'll be back," Dieterle said. "They'll work that much harder. We know; we got a taste and we'll be back up here again."
Severn Wins Girls Title
Severn (17-2, 11-0) capped its season with a 4-2 victory over Maryvale in the MIAA B Conference girls championship earlier Sunday. The Admirals pulled to a 3-0 lead in the first half and held on from there. Severn sophomore Alex Priddy scored a hat trick to finish with 29 goals for the season. She also assisted on junior Emmie Eckert's 21st goal of the season.