Even after the Huntingtown girls' soccer team's difficult season-ending loss to Towson in the Maryland 3A semifinal Friday night, it was hard for Huntingtown senior Alyssa Finlayson to forget the amazing turnaround that had enabled her team to get to that point.
"If someone had told me at the end of last season that we would be in the state semifinals, I would have laughed," Finlayson said.
The Hurricanes' one-year turnaround after a winless first season in varsity ended Friday with a 2-1 loss to Towson at Tuscarora High in Frederick. Huntingtown (9-6-1) had won three straight games in the playoffs, including wins over La Plata and Westlake that avenged regular-season losses.
On Friday night, a goal by Britta Vivaldi -- one of seven freshmen on the roster -- gave the Hurricanes a 1-0 lead going into halftime. But Towson (10-6-1) scored two goals in a three-minute period in the second half to secure the win.
"You have to give them credit where credit is due," Hurricanes Coach Gina Hobson said. "They came back in the second half offensively and took things away from us and took advantage of our mistakes."
Towson advanced to play Tuscarora in next week's 3A final. Tuscarora, a third-year school, beat River Hill, 1-0, in overtime in the other semifinal game in Frederick.
The finale may have been disappointing, but the ride to Friday's semifinal was improbable for the Hurricanes, who have no senior starters. A year ago, in its first year as a varsity program, Huntingtown went 0-12 in the regular season and won its only game in the first round of the playoffs.
This season, the Hurricanes improved but were still a middle-of-the-road team in the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference. With a 6-5-1 regular-season record, Huntingtown earned the eighth seed in the 3A South Region, then won three straight and made its first state tournament appearance.
"We just really clicked in the playoffs," said Finlayson, a captain and one of three seniors on the roster. "We started to really play well as a team."
Huntingtown was in control in the first half, getting several scoring chances before Vivaldi scored off a corner kick in the 23rd minute. Towson, which has won seven games in a row but had a rough 4-6 start to the season, fought back and finally tied the game when senior Julie Cavanaugh scored off her rebound in the 56th minute. Two minutes later, Nora Truscello scored when her kick bounced off the goalkeeper's hands.
The key for Towson's win was the goalkeeping of Holly Ziegler in the first half and Amy Exner in the second half. The two combined for 12 saves, including several by Exner in the last 15 minutes of the game.