In the 77th minute of the Bowie High School girls soccer team’s 11-0 home win over County 4A League opponent High Point on Monday, Bulldogs senior forward Nicole Hill stopped for a split-second directly in the center of the field.
She glanced upfield quickly as if she might pass the ball off to one of her teammates running toward the goal but then, with no one there to stop her, remembered something Bulldogs coach Aaron Hankey had talked about in a pre-game discussion.
From midfield, Hill rocketed a shot that perfectly arced just under the crossbar for her team-high fourth goal of the game.
She then raised her arms in celebration but not to disrespect High Point. It was an internal matter.
As one half of the county’s biggest rivalry it is hard for the defending Prince George’s County champion Bulldogs not to look ahead to their Oct. 18 match against defending Class 4A South Region champion Eleanor Roosevelt.
Though no team can be taken for granted — Oct. 15 opponent Charles H. Flowers still is undefeated — it is unlikely the 2010 state finalist Bulldogs will be tested until then. So, coach Aaron Hankey presents his players with smaller challenges to focus on along the way.
“It’s so fun being a part of that rivalry. We’re always talking about it and it’s really hard not to look ahead but we have to stay humble and not play sloppy,” Hill said. “Before games we get into a huddle and set goals. [Hankey] said he wanted us to work on taking outside shots.”
The regular season finale against Roosevelt likely will decide which team advances to the county championship. Though defending last year’s win is important, Hill said the Bulldogs (5-1) have their sights on something bigger.
A loss to the Raiders in last year’s region final marked the first time in four years that Bowie failed to advance to the state tournament.
“I think in our heads [winning] was a tradition and we just thought it was supposed to happen. When we lost it was a reality check that just because we’re Bowie doesn’t mean we’re going to win, we have to earn it. And that is what we want to do this year, earn it,” Hill said.
Bowie has cruised against county opponents this fall, it’s only loss was to Anne Arundel County’s Arundel High.
Lexi D’Orsaneo (12 goals), Anna Huddelston (11) and Hill (nine) have combined for 32 goals in five games and Heather Kaercher has helped tighten up the Bulldogs’ back line.
But things will only get harder as Bowie heads down the final stretch of the season and into playoffs and Hankey said it’s important to keep the Bulldogs focused at practice despite some easy wins.
“We’ve looked good so far but we’ll see how we look against [some tougher teams]. We’re working a lot on ball movement, but I have to make sure to keep it fun so we stay focused,” Hankey said.
The Bulldogs came through on two goals they’ve set this season: outside shooting and headers.
One of D’Orsaneo’s two goals Monday was a great volley off a cross and Christian Frink chipped a 15-yard shot in while on the run for her second goal late in Monday’s contest.
But Bowie still has a lot to work on, Hankey said. Before Monday’s game he told the Bulldogs he wanted their defense to draw more offsides calls from High Point than Bowie would commit.
Though High Point struggled to get across midfield, Bowie was called offsides nine times, an unacceptable number, Hankey said.
Just another small goal to focus on as the Bulldogs head toward the biggest games of the season.
“The loss at regionals was a wake-up call. I think we thought we could just beat teams. But you can’t take anyone lightly,” Hankey said. “We’re taking every game like it’s going to be a hard game.”