With its 2-0 victory against 15th-ranked North Harford Friday night in the Class 2A state final, Glenelg High’s boys soccer program claimed its first state championship since the 1997 season.
While that accomplishment was certainly known to the No. 12 Gladiators, much more recent history was foremost on the minds of eighth-year coach Joey Osborne and his bevy of 15 talented seniors as they savored the victory that came on the strength of two Vaughn Sines goals and a smothering defensive performance at Loyola University’s Ridley Athletic Complex.
“It’s a special group,” said Osborne, whose squad finished the season at 12-4-1. “Four years ago with this year’s senior class, when they came in as freshmen, we saw that the potential was there. Potential’s one thing. Sticking with it and building it up and getting to where we are today, it’s a testament to them.
“They put in a lot of work over the last few years as a group and individually. The growth just kept coming and coming. To be able to have it turn out like it did tonight, winning a state championship, you couldn’t ask for anything more.”
Despite being a junior, the sense of urgency to win this season with so many seniors on the roster was anything but lost on Sines.
“We knew this was the year,” Sines said. “I’m a junior, but I’m still thinking this is the year. Last year, state semis. This year, we had to finish the job.”
Sines did his part, giving the Gladiators a 1-0 lead before nine minutes had elapsed in the championship match and roughly a minute after Hawks defender Matthew Siedlecki adeptly cleared away a certain goal from Glenelg center back Sam Kersh during a corner kick.
During another set piece, this time a throw-in, Sines pounded in a volley following a save by North Harford goalkeeper Michael Lawry on a header by Eshan Beg.
Lawry alertly tipped the header up, but it clanged off the crossbar and ricocheted to an open Sines standing to Lawry’s left roughly six yards away from the goal.
“I was just trying to get over it and smash it as hard as I could to get it past the keeper,” Sines said. “I was just hoping, `Please don’t sky this.’ I didn’t, and it was a great feeling.”
The Hawks did a solid job of possessing the ball and connecting passes until the final third, where the Glenelg backline of Kersh, Nevin Shatzer, Dylan Ma, and Joey DeRosa comfortably cleared the ball away time after time in both halves, especially during a flurry of activity early in the second half that resulted in some near misses by Jamall Holmes, Kian Pucher, and Ben Wardle.
“They definitely had a good defense,” Wardle said. “It was hard to break through.”
After dominating possession and firing off those quality chances, the Hawks (15-3-1) seemed to wear down physically while the deeper and fresher Glenelg squad continued to press North Harford’s defense, resulting in a penalty kick drawn by Roman Farace with 7:11 left in the match.
Sines once again fired off another violent strike that crashed into the left corner of the goal for the final margin of victory.
Despite the loss, the Hawks were able to reach the state final for the first time in the program’s history under first-year coach Erik Lane.
“We had a new coach come in two weeks into the season, which shocked us all,” said Pucher of Lane. “But I’ve known Eric all of my life. He’s run the youth programs all around the county, and he came in, and he made a difference. He’s done something no boys soccer coach has ever done (at the school). And I thank him for that. He took me where I wanted to be. This is my dream. I wouldn’t be here without him.”
The wait is over for Glenelg, whose prior title occurred when Bill Clifton was President and Ray Lewis was in his second season with the Ravens.
Last season, the Gladiators lost to eventual state champ Wicomico County’s Parkside, 1-0, in the state semifinals.
“At the start of the season, we knew that this was like a year that we kind of had to bring it together. We knew this was the year. Last year, we came close,” said Gladiators senior Siji Jolayemi, whose squad dropped a 1-0 decision to eventual state champion Parkside in the 2A state semifinals in 2021. “This year as the season went on, we had some ups and downs. Games we thought we should have won and lost. We knew we had to learn from those games. It was all just building to this one moment. We were able to bring it home our senior year. It’s just a great feeling.”
CLASS 2A STATE CHAMPIONSHIP
at Loyola University/Ridley Athletic Complex
NO. 12 GLENELG 2, NO. 15 NORTH HARFORD 0
Glenelg 1 1 - 2
North Harford 0 0 - 0
GOALS: Glenelg - Vaughn Sines 2.
SAVES: Glenelg - Joey Samsock 4; North Harford - Michael Lawry 3, Matthew Siedlecki 1.