Sophomore midfielder Samantha Morris said the Ravens decided to change up their offensive philosophy going into the second half.
"It caught us off-guard how high their defense played. Because of that, we were offside a lot," Morris said. "Most of our attack relied on the forwards getting the ball high and going one vs. four, and that didn't work. At halftime, we regrouped and decided to play more through the middle and create passes before just kicking it down the sideline."
That change in style of play paid off for Waterford early in the second half when Morris got in behind the Lions' defense. After evading some trailing defenders, Morris sidestepped oncoming Maeser Prep goalkeeper Kelsie Stonely and slotted what proved to be the game-winning shot into the far post netting.
"It was easier for me to play it out wide and then make a run inside," Morris said. "I kept playing it wide and made some different runs, which confused the defenders in front of me and allowed me to get a breakaway situation behind and get a shot on goal."
While the Ravens avoided the tempting "park the bus" defense after taking the lead, Maeser Prep was still able to control the majority of scoring opportunities from that point on. But, thanks to a skilled backline led by senior captain Katie Wood, the Ravens were able to hold on for their ninth shutout on the season.
"I just kept looking at the clock and wondering when the game was going to end," Wood said. "We had a lot of people covering for each other past the last defender, and a lot of help from everyone on the field. There was a lot of pressure, but we all worked together to make it to the end."
While the backline did the majority of heavy lifting for the Waterford defense, Wood was quick to heap praise on senior goalkeeper Alexa Shreeve.
"Our goalkeeper has never played the position before this year," Morris said. "She's definitely a real hero to us for stepping in this year. I think we have a lot of talented players that come from different places and we all work really well together. We don't yell at each other, we don't get mad at each other — it brings a positive vibe to all of us and that helps a lot at the backline."
Waterford coach Tim Dolbin said he was proud of his team for making the necessary adjustments to advance to yet another 2A final, but that they'll need to be much better on Saturday if they want to win their school's sixth state title.
"We've played better games, but in the end we made the changes that I wanted to see," Dolbin said. "We had a better passing game instead of the over-the-top game we got sucked into in the first half. And the goal was a series of beautiful passes and a great finish. Still, we have a lot to talk about and a lot to get done before tomorrow."
Rowland Hall 1, Summit Academy 0
In Friday's second 2A semifinal, top-seeded Rowland Hall knocked off Summit Academy by a narrow 1-0 margin despite outshooting the Bears 19-6.
The Winged Lions got on the board early when sophomore Aislinn Mitcham blasted a shot from the top of the 18-yard box and over the outstretched arms of the Summit Academy goalkeeper in the 11th minute.
Rowland Hall continued to overpower Summit Academy throughout the match, controlling the majority of possession in its attacking third. The Bears were able to have some success on counter-attacks, but too many poor passes and missed opportunities doomed them in the end as the Winged Lions continued to put shots near or on frame into the closing moments of the match.