To say that Harmony has dominated the county girls’ high school soccer scene in recent years is a huge understatement.  Not only have the Longhorns won or shared the Orange Belt Conference championship for over a decade, they have been dominant in doing so.

So perhaps it was not a surprise when Celebration, one of the many county opponents that the Longhorns have dominated in recent years, exploded into a wild frenzy on Thursday night when the clock hit 0:00 and the Storm found themselves on top 2-1 in the Orange Belt Conference 2022 championship game.  

“It was really a long time in coming for us,” Storm head coach Rebecca Camis said.  “Harmony did a great job with their attack tonight but I was so happy with how we held our form and made sure to stay in position.  We were able to pick up a couple of goals on counter attacks and that was the game plan coming in.  They (Longhorns) are so sound with both their offense and defense, so we knew we had to take advantage with quick counters.”

Celebration’s (10-1) win marked the Storm’s first ever victory over the Longhorns.  In the previous 12 games against Harmony, the Storm was 0-11- 1 and were outscored 67-3 while being shutout nine times.  

But all of that did not matter on Thursday.  

Despite Harmony controlling possession for most of the first half it was Celebration that would take a 1-0 lead into the locker room at the half when Anna Balda took a through ball from Mayah Casamalhuapa and came racing down the left flank with 32 minutes left in the first half.  She fired a hard shot that goalie Karla Marrero made a fantastic save on but the rebound came right back to Balda, who buried her second shot into the left corner of the net.

Trailing 1-0, Harmony had several chances to score the tying goal in the first half.   At the 24-minute mark of the first, a shot from the right side by AJ Scheuer just missed the corner of the net.   Later a free kick from 35 yards out was stopped by Robbins and the loose ball in front of the goal was cleared away by defenders.

Celebration would then up the lead to 2-0 early in the second.   

With Harmony pressing the attack, the Storm got a steal and a breakaway on the other end with striker Erin Ozurek buried her 13th goal of the season to with 29 minutes remaining in the second half. 

Still Harmony would get some life with eight minutes to go.  

After a Celebration foul, Harmony’s Rebekah Wiles took the free kick from about 35 yards out.  The high shot was on target and eluded Robbins attempt to punch it over the net as the Longhorns cut the lead to 2-1.

“We sort of got the momentum after that,” Harmony coach Scott Marlega said.  “We were attacking the middle for the first half but their goalie was doing a great job in deciding when to come off her line and she ended up beating our attackers to the ball.  After Rebecca’s goal, we seized the momentum but simply could not find the equalizer.”

Harmony would end up getting three more good looks at tying the game.  But Scheuer’s blast from the left side went just wide of the net with five minutes remaining and a free kick a few minutes later from 25 yards out was on target but headed away from the goal by Amelia Perez.  A corner kick in the final minute would end up in front of the Celebration goal only to be cleared away by Storm defenders in to preserve the win.  “Really proud of the way we played tonight,” Camis added.  “They have pretty much dominated us over the last decade and to win this one on the road for the OBC championship means so much to us.”

In the third place consolation game. Karen Prado’s free kick with 10 seconds left from almost 40 yards out bounced over the head of the Gateway goal keeper as St. Cloud (3-5) defeated the Panthers (4-4), 2-1. “We constantly preach that you play to the last whistle,” St. Cloud coach Shawn Beck said.  “Tonight was a great example of that.”