Junior Clarissa Kirsch-Downs has averaged better than a goal per game for the 10th-ranked Arundel girls’ soccer team this season, but at halftime of Monday’s contest against No. 8 South River, she had yet to take a shot. During the break, the midfielder stepped away from her team’s bench, hoping to clear her head.
Arundel Coach Laura Coe said Kirsch-Downs “can be her own worst enemy” when the game isn’t going her way. But on a night when offense was hard to come by, the Wildcats’ leading scorer stayed composed enough to deliver the winning goal and the Anne Arundel County title.
Four minutes into the second overtime period, Kirsch-Downs fired in a shot near the penalty spot off a set piece to secure the 1-0 victory. On a soggy night in Gambrills, Arundel clinched the title and moved within one win of their first undefeated regular season.
“I started getting frustrated, but I knew all it was going to take was one shot,” Kirsch-Downs said. “I just wanted to have an opportunity to score.”
South River (11-2, 9-1 Anne Arundel) had the better scoring opportunities for most of the game, but Arundel (13-0, 10-0) spent about an hour working on set piece plays at Friday’s practice and was able to convert when it counted.
In the 94th minute, sophomore Jenna Surdick took the free kick from the far left side of the field about 30 yards from the goal. The attempt floated into a group in front of the net, and junior Emani Silva directed it back toward Kirsch-Downs, who took a touch and buried the shot.
Since many of her teammates were already in the area trying to receive the free kick, Kirsch-Downs was quickly swarmed, celebrating a play run to perfection that netted her 14th goal of the season.
“It seems like there’s a lot of standing around,” Coe said, “but every single one of those girls knows what they’re supposed to be doing.”
South River had won 11 straight games since beginning the season with a storm-shorted 2-0 loss to McDonogh. The Baltimore private school power dealt top-ranked Good Counsel its first loss on Monday night, 5-4.
But Arundel’s defense did just enough to keep the Seahawks off the board for more than an hour and a half. South River’s top scorer, junior Kacie Longo, had several opportunities around the goal, including one rebound attempt that hit the post with about three minutes left in regulation. After that sequence, junior goalie Tiffany Dayton-Hegedus wrapped Surdick in an excited hug.
Arundel — which made its lone state tournament appearance in 1996 — has only allowed two goals this season with Dayton-Hegedus in net.
“This is a great team because no matter what we all believe in each other,” said Dayton-Hegedus, who had six saves on Monday. “Every year they always say this is the team that’s finally going to go to states, and I actually believe it this year.”