Rowland Hall fought its way back to the 2A championship game and redeemed its 2021 championship loss, beating St. Joseph 2-1 on Saturday.
The Winged Lions lost to St. Joseph in the regular season 2-1, but they clearly were aware that they had more than enough in them to win this time.
Right out of the gate, Rowland Hall was the aggressor. The Winged Lions ran for every 50-50 ball, played hard-nosed defense and passed with purpose, which set the tone for the game.
Rowland Hall had a few chances to score early but was unable to finish in the opening minutes, but they persisted. The Winged Lions’ efforts were rewarded in the 15th minute when Zakrie Smith found Beatrix Wall to put them up 1-0.
The lead seemed to give Rowland Hall even more confidence, as the Winged Lions kept up the pressure, although they were unable to score again in the half.
After the intermission, St. Joseph clearly wanted to put its mark on this game and made sure to make its presence felt.
The Jayhawks managed to stay collected defensively and not allow a goal, and in the 60th minute, Alexandra Walker scored off a free kick, evening up the score 1-1.
The St. Joseph crowd was not given even a minute to celebrate, however, because within the next 30 seconds of game time, Smith scored, breaking the hearts of the Jayhawk crowd, and once again Rowland Hall led 2-1.
“We worked really hard for this championship. We had a tough loss last year, but we were determined to get it back this year,” said Smith.
In the final 20 minutes, Rowland Hall simply outworked St. Joseph. The Jayhawks slipped back into their first half form and struggled to run for balls or execute controlled passes.
As time was running out, the Rowland Hall crowd was getting more and more antsy. As the clock struck zero, the Winged Lion players erupted in cheers and hugs.
Rowland Hall completed its goal of winning the championship after being so close last season.
“We asked them to play a different system this season and last year we graduated so many seniors that started,” said Rowland Hall coach Colette Jepson.
“A lot of people came in and had the opportunity to step up and they knew that they had to step up into those roles if they wanted to be here again because last year we got beat in the finals against Waterford. They are resilient and we had amazing captains that were able to keep us together and calm.”
In the final tally, Smith and Wall each recorded a goal and assist as the season of hard work and tenacity for Rowland Hall was finally rewarded with the 2A state championship trophy.