DOVER — The odds were stacked against them from the very start of the season.
That didn’t stop the Smyrna High girls’ soccer program from making history — over and over again.
A last minute goal sent Padua Academy past the third-seeded Eagles, 2-1, in Tuesday night’s DIAA Division I state championship game at Dover High, but the heartbreaking loss doesn’t diminish the team’s accomplishments in the eyes of coach Mike Osborne.
Junior Anna Poehlmann scored the go-ahead goal in the 78th minute to give the top-seeded Pandas (16-1) their third straight title and 11th overall.
It was the first title appearance for Smyrna’s program, which had also just earned the first state tourney win in program history with a 4-0 quarterfinals shutout of division rival Caesar Rodney High May 21.
“I think it’ll take a little bit of time to put that into perspective, for sure,” Osborne said of what the team accomplished this year. “The girls were already chatting about it after the game, so they were consoling themselves with the fact that they knew they had accomplished something that hadn’t been done in our school history, so we’re excited about that.
“They’re already talking about next year — we’re a young group, everyone probably knows that. The loss stings, but having some unprecedented success certainly is a good consolation.”
Four days after earning the team’s first tourney win over CR, Smyrna’s hard fought 2-1 semifinal victory on the road at No. 2 seeded Appoquinimink High set the Eagles up in the finals match with the powerhouse Padua program.
Only two other Henlopen schools in tournament history have made state title appearances — Caesar Rodney and Indian River High. Caesar Rodney has made seven appearances, but lost each time, while Indian River lost both title game appearances they’ve made.
Desiree Zapata broke a school record with 33 goals as a freshman this year, adding yet another piece to Smyrna’s special season.
The Eagles (14-4) fell behind early after Padua netted a goal in the fifth minute from senior Brieana Hallo, using an assist from senior teammate Sydni Wright.
Smyrna junior midfielder/defender Mackenzie Martin booted the ball into the top right corner from 30 yards out for the equalizer in the 34th minute to send the two teams into the halftime break with a 1-1 deadlock.
“Kudos to her, she hit it — it was a great shot in the corner,” Osborne said of Martin’s goal. “She’s fought all year, she’s had some nagging injuries, but the coaching staff knew she could hit that ball … it was great, I was so happy for her.”
With Smyrna’s offense producing just five shots, the Eagles spent most of the night on the defensive end of the field. The team’s relentless defensive effort from the back line and senior goalkeeper Sofia Lerro kept the score 1-1 heading into the fourth quarter.
With 20 minutes left in the game and a 1-1 deadlock, Smyrna and Padua looked poised to head into overtime before Poehlmann’s game-winner just 10 seconds before stoppage time.
“It was about composure, that was the main thing we talked about (prior to fourth quarter),” said Osborne. “We were trying to get composure all night long, so we knew if we could get a couple passes together, counter well, we could have some chances to score … I thought we had one or two close ones there, but that was the main thing, we struggled for composure tonight and that was the conversation in the fourth quarter.”
Smyrna loses a trio of seniors in Lerro, Hannah Osborne and Emily Thompson next year, but is excited for the future with a crop of talented returning players, including Kelly Barr and Zapata leading the way on offense