Year after year, no matter how the Seahawks stacked up with their archrival Severna Park during the regular season, they would fall to the Falcons during the playoffs — five straight region tournament losses, four of them leaving South River one win away from reaching states.
“I was just standing there, and the ball came to me,” Milligan said. “I was just like ‘Oh, my gosh.’ ”
Milligan scored the game-winner 2 minutes 56 seconds into sudden death overtime Saturday night, and South River finally changed the script, earning an emotional 3-2 win against Severna Park to win the Maryland 4A East title for the first time since 2006, when the Falcons played in the state’s 3A classification.
The top-ranked Seahawks (15-1-1) will play 4A West champion Blake (12-3) in a state semifinal on Wednesday at 5 p.m. at Franklin High School in Reisterstown.
No. 5 Severna Park (12-4) will miss the state tournament for the first time since 2002, and will not add to its record 20 state titles.
“Finally!” South River senior defender Taylor Bresnahan said afterward. “We’ve been in their shoes all four years, and our senior year it’s just amazing to get by them.”
South River never trailed Saturday, but Severna Park twice answered Seahawk goals to force the extra period.
South River senior forward Abbey Lawrence opened the scoring with a backhand shot through traffic with 4:41 left in the first half, but Severna Park All-Met senior forward Marissa Balleza answered with what could have been a demoralizing equalizer off of a penalty corner in the final seconds before halftime.
Lawrence scored again on passes from junior midfielder Anna Wagner and Milligan off a set play after a corner nearly 10 minutes into the second half, and Severna Park answered again about four minutes later with a goal off a rebound by Jessica Valvano.
Each team had chances to score late, feeding off of each other in a tremendously skilled game.
“I don’t want to take anything away from them, but it’s almost the toss of a coin,” Severna Park Coach Ann Andrews said. “We would not be as good without them and I think they would not be as good without us.”
South River controlled possession early in overtime, and after Lawrence found an open Milligan in the circle for the game-winner, the Seahawks dove into a dogpile, releasing years of disappointment against their toughest opponent.
“Both of these teams deserve to be in the state tournament,” South River Coach Katie Corcoran said. “They played a great game and I’m sad to see their season end, but I’m thrilled we finally did it.”