(Oct. 17, 2014) The last time the Stephen Decatur girls’ soccer team played for, and won, the Bayside Conference championship was in 2003 under the direction of Coach Amy Fenzel-Mergott.
Eleven years later and led by first-year Coach Maggie Berke, the Lady Seahawks will have another chance to compete for the crown as the team secured a spot in the title game with a 2-1 victory over the Parkside Rams on Tuesday in Berlin.
“It was a huge win because now we’re Bayside South champs,” Berke said.
Although each team had opportunities, the game was scoreless going into the halftime break.
“They were playing frantic. They weren’t playing their way,” Berke said of the Seahawks’ first-half performance. “It wasn’t bad soccer, but it wasn’t their soccer. The hype of the game, nerves, all that stuff gets in their head.”
She said she told the Seahawks to “work it out, talk it out and play the way you know you can.”
Parkside scored about seven minutes into the second half. The goal only lit a fire under the Seahawks.
“Being down motivates us more… we knew we could get it back and everyone on the field had good energy going,” said senior captain Payton VanKirk.
About 10 minutes after the Rams’ goal, in a foot race for the ball, VanKirk beat her Parkside defender and scored.
“That was really exciting especially because last time I scored in the Parkside game,” VanKirk said. She netted Decatur’s goal during the Oct. 2 game against Parkside in Salisbury. The match ended in a 1-1 draw.
“It was just a really exciting feeling. I just feel like one goal or one awesome play by someone just sparks energy for the whole team,” she said. “Right when we scored (in the second match-up) the energy of the game changed.”
“That definitely got them pumped up,” Berke said of VanKirk’s goal.
With nine minutes left on the clock, Decatur was awarded a corner kick. Junior Alexis McDonough set the ball in a spot on the grass she liked and then kicked it to the near post.
Sophomore Mallory Vara, who set herself up in front of the Parkside goalie, was in the perfect position as the ball came to her head and she directed it into the goal.
“It was super exciting. I can’t thank Lexi McDonough enough for the ball because it was amazing,” Vara said.
After scoring her first game-winning goal, Vara said, “it’s a rush.”
Decatur junior goalie Lexi Gausepohl came up with several big saves. She stopped nine Rams’ shots.
“I’m so proud of them for the way they played,” Berke said.
“It was an awesome team win. Every single person on the field gave 100 percent,” VanKirk said.
Decatur, the Bayside South champs, will battle the Queen Anne’s Lions, the top team in the Bayside North, on Tuesday at Wicomico County Stadium at 7 p.m.
“They just got to have the heart. They just have to want it,” Berke said.
“In the four years being here, I’ve never played in a Bayside soccer game. We’ve just come so close every year so it’s a really exciting thing for my senior year,” VanKirk said. “We’ve been working hard since preseason to get to this point. It’s always been a goal of ours and it’s just really awesome to finally get here.”
The draw for regional tournament bracket seedings is Monday. Decatur, who finished the regular season with 11 wins, no losses and one tie, will compete in Section I of the 3A South regional tournament. Playoff action is set to begin Friday, Oct. 24.