Tyler Meade knew it was just a matter of time for River Hill. He has experienced too much success in his four seasons with the Hawks to know that bad luck -- like three River Hill shots hitting the crossbar in the first half of its Maryland 3A semifinal against Seneca Valley last night -- does not have a place in the program.
"We knew it was going to come," said Meade, a senior co-captain who has played on state champion teams each of his first three years at River Hill. "Once we put one in, then we knew we'd get two, three, four. We knew we had them."
Sure enough, Meade's goal three minutes before halftime was the break River Hill needed. The Hawks added three more in the second half to defeat the Screaming Eagles, 4-0, at Tuscarora.
River Hill (14-1-1) will face Towson, a 3-0 winner over Westlake in the evening's first semifinal, for the state title. The Hawks are seeking to become only the second team in state history to win four consecutive state titles. Wilde Lake won the Class C title each year from 1981 to '84.
River Hill, which opened in 1996, is playing in its eighth state title game, where it has not lost since the 1996 1A final.
The Hawks last met Towson in the 2003 3A final, which ended in a 1-1 tie, and gave the two a share of the championship because the state does not allow title games to be decided by penalty kicks.
"Because it's Towson, yeah, it's kind of right" to end my high school career against them, said Matt Stara, River Hill's other senior co-captain. "It's really remarkable what we've accomplished."
Following a 5-4-2 regular season, Seneca Valley won two of its three regional tournament games on penalty kicks to advance to its first state tournament. The Screaming Eagles frustrated River Hill in the first half with a bend-but-don't-break approach to defending the aggressive and highly skilled Hawks.
"Composure in the box" was the key to the game, said Hawks Coach Bill Stara, who is seeking his 13th state title in 23 years of coaching. "They were so inspired and hyped up that they wanted to crush the ball."
In the first game, Towson junior midfielder Joey Chapline scored twice in the game's first 16 minutes. In the 11th minute, Chapline scored from 20 yards out, and five minutes later, sophomore Wils Alpern made a perfect crossing pass to Chapline in front of the net for an easy score.
It was Westlake's second state tournament appearance in three years, but the Wolverines did not look comfortable, and they admitted they could not find their passing touch. Westlake (11-6-1) had a noticeable size advantage on nearly every Towson player but the Generals (10-4-1) shook off the physical play, using more finesse than the Wolverines, especially in their midfield play.
"Our passes were just erratic," Westlake Coach Armand Delacruz said. "They were a good team in transition."