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Urbana girls waste no time setting tone, advancing to 4A state semifinals

URBANA — Wednesday’s Class 4A girls lacrosse state quarterfinal began a little later than its scheduled 5:30 p.m. start time.

But once the action got underway, Urbana wasted no time taking command.

Just seven seconds into the game, Cora Betten scored after winning the opening draw, speeding down the left sideline and firing in the first of her four goals.

And with 5 minutes, 15 seconds still left in the second quarter, Urbana pulled its starters because it already enjoyed a 12-goal lead.

The Hawks were well on their way to yet another convincing postseason win, an 18-6 victory over visiting Richard Montgomery that sends Urbana to the state semifinals for the third time in four years.

The Hawks (12-6) will play No. 8 North County, a 19-4 winner over Eleanor Roosevelt that drew a low seed after playing a tough regular-season schedule, in the regional semis on Friday or Saturday at a yet-to-be-determined location.

This year’s final four appearance comes after the Hawks lost to eventual state champ Broadneck in last season’s state quarterfinals. Urbana will be vying for its first trip to the state championship game since 2005.

“Semifinals on Friday or Saturday, if we can get that one, then we’ve taken a step forward this year,” Urbana coach Ryan Hines said. “That’s been the goal from the get-go.”

Urbana has yet to face a serious threat this postseason, outscoring opponents 55-14.

“They’re playing well together. If you look at your [stat] sheet, it’s not one girl. There’s multiple girls,” Hines said. “They’re sharing the ball well, moving the ball. Defensively, we’re communicating better, getting where we’re supposed to be.”

All those traits and more were evident against the Rockets. Nine different Hawks scored, and five Urbana players had assists.

The Hawks dominated draw controls, with Colby Johnson and Lilli Pontius often initiating that process in the circle. Ground balls seemed destined for Urbana sticks, particularly McKenna Gotlinger’s.

And Urbana’s defense held the Rockets scoreless until Keira Koenig (four goals) scored in the closing minutes of the first half.

“We’ve kind of caught our stride and found our rhythm with how we are as an offense,” Betten said. “And we’re really building an identity on defense as well with our [man-to-man], and now we’re creating a zone, too.”

While Urbana has ranked as one of Frederick County’s heavyweights all season long, it entered the playoffs coming off two straight losses. The latter of those defeats, 13-6 to rival Linganore in the Central Maryland Conference Large School championship, gave the Hawks extra motivation moving forward.

“We needed to just reset after that,” Betten said. “We were having a rhythm before that, and that hit, and we just needed to come back and find who we are as a team.”

The Hawks looked like a nice passing team on Wednesday. One of the nicest feeds came from Paige White, who hit cutter Reagan McKenney in stride. McKenney promptly scored the first of her three goals.

“We work really well together,” McKenney said. “We distribute the ball amongst all of our team, and I think that’s really been helpful this year.”

Johnson had three goals for the Hawks. White had two goals and two assists. Rylie Lange had two goals.

Being a senior, McKenney was in Urbana’s program when its current run of final four appearances started in 2021. She didn’t play in the semis as a freshman, though.

“I was actually on the sidelines just cheering everyone on,” she said.

Come this weekend, she and the rest of the Hawks will be looking to make their deepest postseason run in nearly 20 years.