CLARKSVILLE — If any of the Walkersville High girls soccer players were feeling a bit jittery heading into penalty kicks of a state semifinal Saturday, they would have been wise to take a cue from their junior goalkeeper, Jazzmin Salters.
Salters claims to not get nervous in most situations, and, despite not facing one previous penalty-kick situation all season, she was very well-versed in how to handle it through her experiences in club and youth soccer.
“I give them a stare,” Salters said as she explained how she gets into the mind of an opposing ball-striker on a PK. “I’ll usually walk up to them and hand them the ball, making sure I make eye contact with them. Sometimes, I will say something to them.”
How effective is Salters’ stare?
“It can be pretty intimidating, even in practice,” senior teammate Randie Burns said.
Playing in the school’s first state semifinal for girls soccer Saturday afternoon at River Hill High School, Salters’ nerves of steel permeated the entire team.
After 100 scoreless minutes that covered regulation and two 10-minute overtime periods, the Lions calmly buried all five of their penalty kicks to slide past Fallston and into the Class 2A championship game next week at Loyola University.
“It was believable,” said Burns, the last of five Walkersville penalty-kick takers who clinched the victory by sending her attempt into the top right portion of the net.
Prior to Burns, Chidera Ogwulu, Megan Allen, Gabrielle Zeller and Carly Heller converted their attempts without flinching.
Fallston, meanwhile, pushed its second attempt wide of the goal, as Salters lunged to make a play on it. The final tally of the penalty-kick session was 5-3 in favor of the Lions. Fallston never even made its fifth and final attempt because the game was already out of reach.
“These girls just grind. They just grind. That’s their work ethic. That’s them,” Walkersville coach Paul Bryan said after his team improved to 13-4-2 this season. “It’s not pretty, but when we come to play, you are going to get all 80 minutes and then some.”
Prior to penalty kicks, there weren’t many great scoring chances. Then again, neither team was known for its offensive prowess.
Walkersville had a shot tipped over the crossbar and another stopped at point-blank range in the second half.
Salters, meanwhile, had to corral a Fallston header from close range in overtime that was generated by one of the Cougars’ nine corner kicks. The Lions, by contrast, only had one corner.
In the state final, Walkersville will face 12-time state champion River Hill, which will be bidding for its third straight state title. River Hill beat Hereford 2-1 in Saturday’s other semifinal.
“We’ll see how it goes,” Bryan said. “We don’t get to a state final very often. So, we are going to enjoy it. But we are going to come to play. [River Hill will] know who Walkersville is by the time we leave.”