The scene seemed just about perfect on Wednesday night for Walter Johnson High School: the corner, the timing, the player winding up to blast the shot that not many have been able to stop all year.
Because that’s how the Wildcats win games. They win in overtime (Thomas S. Wootton can tell you all about that), by one goal, by Anna Rowthorn-Apel miracles. But then something happened when the ball flew off the junior Wildcat’s stick with 40 seconds left that has been quite rare this season: it got blocked.
“It was really close and I just wanted to score really badly,” Rowthorn-Apel said. “Because we knew it would be a wake-up call if we got to go to overtime and we would be able to beat them, I think, that if we went into overtime.”
But there would be no overtime on Wednesday night as the ball was eventually knocked out of bounds and time expired and Catonsville took a 2-1 victory over the No. 2 seeded Wildcats.
“I told the girls how many barriers they broke down, how many walls they knocked over getting to where they are,” coach Erika Murray said. “For the seniors, this has been their goal for four years and this is where they are. So as disappointing as it is, it’s a big deal.”
The Wildcats were the first on the board on Wednesday at Franklin High when Rowthorn-Apel zipped in the game’s opening goal off a penalty corner 15 minutes in. That would be the only offense either team would muster for the rest of the half as the two semifinalists combined for just three shots in the first 30 minutes.
But Catonsville picked up six straight corners in a 16-minute stretch during the second half and both Brooke Stevens and Grace Campbell would find the net to give the Comets their first lead of the game. Catonsville kept the ball on the Walter Johnson half for most of the remaining minutes until Rowthorn-Apel made her move in the game’s final ticks and forced a corner with 40 seconds remaining.
And that was supposed to be the part where Rowthorn-Apel, the one responsible for each of the Wildcats’ three game-winning overtime goals this season, pushed it into extra time and Walter Johnson survived another thriller. But the Comets ensured that wouldn’t be the script Wednesday as Rowthorn-Apel’s shot was stuffed and the Wildcats’ season was brought to a close one game shy of the state final.
“Obviously we’re sad because we didn’t go as far as we wanted to,” Rowthorn-Apel said. “But our goal at the beginning of the season was to make it to states and we made it.”
Catonsville 2, Walter Johnson 1
Catonsville (13-3) 0 2—2
Walter Johnson (13-2) 1 0—1
Catonsville— Brooke Stevens, Grace Campbell
Walter Johnson—Anna Rowthorn-Apel