- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Becca Schneider hasn’t scored very many goals this season.
But she scored arguably the biggest of Northern’s season so far when her second-half tally propelled the visiting Patriots to a 1-0 win over county rival Huntingtown to claim the Class 3A South Region field hockey championship on Friday.
“Very excited,” Northern head coach Nicole Kerfoot said. “[It's been] a long season. Great to pull it off for the title.”
The win sends third-seeded Northern (11-5-1 overall) into the 3A state semifinals against Atholton of Howard County at 5 p.m. today at Broadneck High School in Annapolis.
“We’re just going to have to keep doing what we’re doing, working together,” Kerfoot said.
The Raiders (13-2) advanced from the East bracket by virtue of their 2-1 win over Annapolis of Anne Arundel County. That game will be followed at 7 p.m. by the other state semifinal, which will feature Linganore of Frederick County, the West Region champion, against Hereford of Baltimore County, the North Region champion.
“I’m really excited, it’s going to be a great opportunity to go,” said Northern freshman goalie Sophie Thon, who made four saves. “It'll be really cool to see what happens at states. Never been there, never thought about going there, so it's really cool to be able to tell everyone [we're going] and to be a part of that.”
“After losing last year [in the region finals] and earlier in the season [to Huntingtown 2-0 on Sept. 24), it feels great to get our revenge and to show the county how good we are and how hard we’ve worked for this,” said Northern’s Carly Cummings, who drew an assist on the winning goal.
The perennial regional finalists have now squared off for the championship in five of the last seven seasons, including the last four. Northern won in 2006, 2009 and 2010 before Huntingtown wrestled the banner away with a win on last year’s final.
“This is the fourth time [since I’ve been coaching] we’ve met them for this title and the girls, most of their friends are here,” Kerfoot said. “It’s friendship before and after the game, but during the game it’s competition.”
Four of their five finals meetings have been decided by one goal and it was Schneider’s tally that proved to be the difference.
Schneider had three goals coming into the game and notched her fourth of the year at about the midway point of the second half. Cummings sent the ball to the top of the circle where Julie Keleti fired a shot on Huntingtown goalie Taylor Rhoads (4 saves), who made the save but Schneider was there to whack in the rebound.
“I just reached out for the ball and sent it in and then everyone was just yelling and screaming,” Schneider said. “It feels so great, [scoring] was like the biggest thing I could give back to them.”
A low point coming a day later
The top-seeded Hurricanes (12-3-1), who blanked fourth-seeded Chopticon in a semifinal matchup 24 hours earlier, 2-0, were somewhat dazed following the loss.
“I don't know if I'm stunned,” Huntingtown head coach Shannon Persetic said. “We didn't play our game, but the girls never quit. The thing I will say is this team came a heck of a long way. They had a heck of a season. To go from what they did and how they played they just never quit and [they’re] a great group of girls. That’s the one thing I will never take way from them.”
Huntingtown applied plenty of pressure over the final minutes but was unable to get a shot past Thon. Huntingtown's best chance came in the final seconds when a bouncing pass deflected off the stick of Huntingtown's Jody Hyland, who was stationed alone at the far corner, and batted away by Thon.
“I had to make a ninja leap for that one,” said Thon, who is in her first year of playing the sport. “What was going through my mind [in the final minutes] was, ‘Keep it up there, keep it away from me.’ It came down [close] to make a couple times and everyone heard me yell, ‘No.’ [The ball] was not going in, it was not going to go in.”
Huntingtown had six penalty corners, including five in the second half, while Northern was awarded five, four over the final 25 minutes.
Neither team had scored after the first 25 minutes, sending the team to halftime scoreless.
“The girls played a strong first half, back-and-forth, and they were playing well, so we knew we just had to step it up for the second half,” Kerfoot said.
Cummings added, “[The fact we were scoreless] made us feel like we were still in it. It made us fight even harder.”
Thon said being the goalie for a regional championship team in her first season playing the sport has been overwhelming at times.
“When I first decided to play, I thought I’d play JV a couple years and maybe be in the state [semifinals one year, but this] has really given me insight about what I need to do the next couple years. It’s cool that in my first year on varsity I get to play with champions.”
Cummings thinks the Patriots can be more than just regional champions.
“If we keep up our passing and hitting like we did against Huntingtown and La Plata, I definitely think we have a chance [to win states],” she said. “Also, just having the heart to do it.”