Dulaney High did a good job of defending South River senior Maia Cheeks in the first half of their Class 4A state semifinal on Wednesday night at Paint Branch.
The 11th-ranked Lions were not quite as effective in the second half, even though they held off the No. 3 Seahawks for as long as they could before succumbing, 2-0, to the Anne Arundel County co-champions, who will meet Montgomery County’s Winston Churchill for the state title on Saturday at Washington College in Chesterton. Game time is set for 6:30 p.m.
No wonder Dulaney had its eyes peeled for Cheeks, a standout attacker, who had 14 goals and 4 assists entering the contest.
It was the rest of the swarming Seahawks (17-1-1 overall) — senior attacker Sarah King, junior attacker Paris Plummer, sophomore attacker Darcy Clement and sophomore midfielder Allison Corey — who were giving the Lions fits.
Even so, Dulaney junior defenders Ellie Drescher, Lydia Naughton and Grace Jung, playing in front of senior goalie Alli Hill, did not yield a goal in the opening period or in the first 13 minutes of the second half.
Yet the Lions (13-5) only had so much resistance left after the Seahawks unleashed a couple of rocket shots and created a slew of dangerous opportunities in a second-half blitz.
“Our coaches and our teammates really got together and we said, ‘guys, this game is really important to us. We’ve worked so hard this year.’ And we stepped it up. We all did. We were in a panic and we calmed it down and played our game.”
South River finally broke through in the 43rd minute after two point-blank shots were thwarted by Hill and a rebound squirted out to senior midfielder Lauren Schlegel, who rifled the ball into the cage for a 1-0 advantage. King, who is a Yale commit, was credited with an assist on the play.
The Seahawks applied even more pressure after taking the lead, finishing the game with dominating numbers in corners (11-3) and shots (15-7).
They kept pushing forward until Cheeks scored on a feed from senior defender Kassidy Bresnahan to secure the team’s 12th consecutive victory and first berth in the final since 2012.
“It came off a scramble,” Cheeks said. “The defense got it and then I got it and I scored.”
In between the goals, South River sophomore defender McKenzie Jamison and King had golden opportunities to score, only to either miss or get turned away by Hill, who finished with a game-best 10 saves.
“We kind of took note of who their stronger players were,” South River coach Megan Atkinson said about the Seahawks’ second-half success. “We had to understand what their game plan was and then mark-up on their players a little bit better. With our defense being a little bit stronger, it allowed our offense to be more aggressive in the circle. We had a lot more shots and a lot more corners. It worked out very well for us.”
Dulaney’s best chance to retaliate came when senior attacker Kiley Bolonda led a fast break that led to Casie O’Grady’s shot on the doorstep that South River senior goalie Paige Ford denied with about 20 minutes remaining in regulation.
“We just had too many penalties,” Dulaney coach Kellie Fialcowitz said. “You can’t give up that many possessions to a team that good. I think when you play a hard 60 minutes, you tend to wear down a little bit, and they’re a very fast team and a very good team.”
4A FIELD HOCKEY STATE SEMIFINALS
(at Paint Branch High School)
NO. 3 SOUTH RIVER 2, NO. 12 DULANEY 0
DUL 0 0 — 0
SR 0 2 — 2
Goals: SR-Lauren Schlegel, Maia Cheeks.
Assists: SR-Sarah King, Kassidy Bresnahan.
Saves: Dul-Alli Hill 10; SR-Paige Ford 5.