BALTIMORE — Luke Roberton dropped to the turf and lay on his back for several seconds Friday at Loyola University’s Ridley Athletic Complex, visibly devastated after Whitman came back from a one-goal deficit to beat Roberton’s Urbana boys soccer team 2-1 in the Class 4A state final.
One could understand Roberton’s pain considering the senior midfielder had just played his final high school match. But Urbana’s Max Riley was just as distraught a few feet to Roberton’s right, sitting on the field with his arms draped over his knees and showing just how badly each of the Hawks wanted to win for each other. Just a freshman, Riley can look forward to three more years of soccer.
“We’ll all still hang out and play pick-up soccer, and mess around together,” Roberton said. “The friendships are the bigger part.
“Everyone’s bonded on this team. That’s what made us great.”
Ben Wilson scored the decisive goal in the 66th minute after Urbana goalkeeper Zachary Gibbons came off his line to make a stop. But a rebound bounced around the goalkeeper, who had fallen to the ground, and two other defenders. Wilson collected the ball and kicked it into an open net.
For quite a while, it appeared Urbana (17-3) would leave Loyola with entirely different emotions after Roberton delivered a nice cross from the right side of the field to Will Micol, who finished from about 12 yards out to give Urbana a 1-0 lead in the 28th minute. It marked the first time all season that the Vikings (17-1) allowed an opponent to score the first goal of a match. Up to that point, Urbana had enjoyed some quality possession in front of Whitman’s goal.
“It felt amazing going up first,” Micol said. “It gave us confidence in the beginning.”
It was much needed-confidence considering Whitman entered the match as the nation’s 14th-ranked high school boys soccer team, according to topdrawersoccer.com. The Vikings boast two players who have committed to Division I schools in Natan Rosen (Lehigh) and Ryan Machado-Jones (Radford).
Thanks to the strong possession skills and quickness of Rosen, Machado-Jones and Andrew Goldsholle up top, Whitman started to control the match shortly after Micol’s goal.
“They were really quick, and their off-the-ball movement was top-notch,” said Micol, who called the Vikings’ attack the toughest the Hawks had faced all season. “It was hard to keep up with them, but they were very good.”
In the 37th minute, Rosen won a battle for the ball near the top of the 18-yard box on the left side and drilled a shot just inside the far post to tie the match. The goal ended a long stretch of time during which Whitman had buzzed around Urbana’s goal.
“They definitely outshot us, but as far as dangerous opportunities go, I thought we did great limiting dangerous opportunities against us,” Urbana coach Scott Schartner said.
Schartner praised the senior leadership of his team, saying captains Micol, Roberton and Carson Cooley identified needs on the team and quickly did something to address them without being told to do so. It’s something, Schartner said, that made this year’s Urbana team comparable to some of his stronger squads.
All three captains experienced the Hawks’ run to a 2016 state title.
“We definitely wanted to end our season with the championship, but the reality is only one team can end their season with a win,” Cooley said. “It wasn’t us tonight, but as Coach tells us: Championships, those things fade [over] time, but the relationships we build within the team, those never fade. That’s what I’m going to remember for this year: every relationship I’ve made.”