BALTIMORE — Kasie Ogwulu, Maggie Molnar and Chidera Ogwulu smiled, almost giddily, after a reporter put a microphone on a table in front of them at a press conference Friday at Loyola University’s Ridley Athletic Complex.
For the next 10 minutes, they answered questions about their Walkersville girls soccer team’s 1-0 loss to River Hill in the Class 2A state final. All the while, the three continued flashing wide smiles about a season they considered a major victory for their school.
“We didn’t look forward to the next game, we gave everything every game we had and just got on a nice roll,” Lions coach Paul Bryan said.
Against a team that collected its 13th championship, the Lions (13-5-2) dug into their final match of the season the way they approached every other game this season: with defense.
“I think we’re more of a defensive-minded team,” Chidera Ogwulu said. “We tried to defend together as a team, and when we get those opportunities to attack, we all push up and attack as a team.”
The plan worked for the most part, but the Hawks (17-1) scored the match’s lone goal when a free kick found the feet of River Hill’s top scorer, Brigette Wang, just inside the 18-yard box. From the right side of the field, Wang delivered a low hard shot inside the far post for her 16th goal of the season.
Like Walkersville, River Hill also prides itself on defense, having allowed just five goals all season. But the Hawks survived a scare in the final 30 seconds on a shot by Kasie Ogwulu that River Hill tried to clear. But the ball went toward Hawks goalie Caroline Duffy, who got a hand on it before it hit the right goalpost.
“I had a heart attack,” Duffy said. “Off a jumble, the ball hit off one of our players’ knees — just hit the side of my hand, and the post helped me out.”
Seconds later, a storybook season for the Lions came to an end. Walkersville entered the Class 2A West Region as a No. 3 seed. The Lions toppled two No. 1 seeds in the region, Middletown and Oakdale, to make their first state tournament appearance in school history.
“Everybody underestimated us,” Chidera Ogwulu said. “A lot of people doubted us.”
All three players at the press conference said the playoff win over the Knights, their chief rival, ignited that nice roll Bryan talked about, giving them the confidence they could have a long postseason run. At the beginning of the season, Walkersville had no such thoughts.
“I definitely didn’t expect to get to states,” Molnar said.
The season that followed, which included blossoming relationships, will stick with the Lions.
“In the beginning of the season, we were just a team,” Molnar said. “But now we’re a family.”