By B.J. Koubaroulis
In the 80th minute of Urbana's 1-0 victory over Northern in last night's 3A state semifinal at Tuscarora, junior midfielder Julia Roberts slid as she punted away Northern's last scoring opportunity.
Roberts -- smeared in mud during the slide -- finally could empathize with a group of mud-covered Northern defenders, who'd slipped and stumbled all night in their attempts to contain Roberts.
Roberts accounted for the game's scoring in the 31st minute, when she bent a 35-yard boot off her left foot into the top right corner of the goal.
And when No. 10 Urbana (11-1-3) looks for its first state title in a meeting with Wilde Lake (16-4) Thursday at Broadneck, the Hawks will draw on experience they've gained from an unforgiving regular season schedule.
Urbana's regular season included losses to top-ranked St. John's (21-2-2), No. 3 Bishop O'Connell (17-4-3) and No. 4 River Hill (16-1-1) and wins over Baltimore power John Carroll (17-5) and New Mexico's St. Pius X (20-3).
"When we are playing the private schools, they are all club players and they are all the best players," said Roberts, a member of the under-16 national team. Among the colleges she is considering are Virginia, Duke, Florida, Santa Clara and Stanford. "We have learned how to play against different systems and in tournaments, even playing against a better team, we have a better feel for what could happen."
On a whiteboard in the locker room before the game, "I wrote The Washington Post's top 10 down," Urbana Coach Chuck Nichols said. "So, St. John's? Oh yeah, played them. O'Connell? Oh yeah, played them, River Hill? Played them. Did we learn anything? So far, so good."
Duff Lifts Wilde Lake
With three of its starters sidelined because of injuries, Wilde Lake relied on a goal and an assist from junior midfielder Caitlin Duff for a 2-1 victory over Catonsville in last night's early 3A state semifinal at Tuscarora.
Junior forward Faryn Watts finished Duff's corner kick in the 51st minute to push the Wildecats (16-4) into Thursday's 3A state final at Broadneck, where they will meet Urbana.
"I thought I needed to get this in right now because this could be our last opportunity," said Watts, who headed in her 12th goal of the season against a Catonsville side that had allowed just five goals, shut out 13 opponents and outscored its previous three postseason opponents, 11-0. "We are expecting the next team to be better than anything we've seen, so we just need to stay focused."
Duff finished senior midfielder Skye Fishbein's 15-yard left-footed cross with a jumping right-footed shot near the left post for a 1-0 lead in the 20th minute.
Catonsville (16-2) answered five minutes later when senior forward Jessica Nonn (32 goals) broke through two defenders and sent a 17-yard right-footed shot to the back right corner of the goal to tie the game at 1.
Wilde Lake junior goalkeeper Grace Koplow had seven saves.
"They are special not because they are winning, but because of what they are doing to prepare," Wilde Lake Coach Dave Procida said. "We've got three starters down and these kids have picked up their game and their intensity."