No. 1 Notre Dame Prep tops Garrison Forest for first IAAM field hockey crown; St. Paul’s and Park post shutouts for B and C title, respectively (VIDEO HERE!!)
by Nelson Coffin and Derek Toney
A year ago, Notre Dame Prep field hockey tasted the most bitter of defeats. Sunday, the Blazers enjoyed sweet redemption.
Top-ranked Notre Dame Prep defeated No. 4 Garrison Forest School, 3-1, in the IAAM A Conference title game at Stevenson University’s Mustang Stadium. Sunday belonged the top-seeds as St. Paul’s School and Park School, racked up shutout decisions.
St. Paul’s struck with lightning-like swiftness near the midway point of the opening period on unassisted back-to-back goals by junior forwards Caroline Pearce and Kerrigan Rogers within just 58 seconds of each other to take a 2-0 lead in what turned out to be a 3-0 triumph over Maryvale Prep in the B final.
The Gators (12-2, 10-1) completed the scoring in the 36th minute when sophomore defender Liz Kennedy converted a feed from senior forward Natalie Bray for a 3-0 lead.
The Lions threatened a couple of times in the second half, although they could not connect on a scoring play.
Their best opportunity came on a scorching shot by freshman forward Emma Radebaugh that whistled wide with about 12 minutes remaining in regulation.
The St. Paul’s defense, which did allow three Maryvale penalty corners in the second half, was unyielding behind senior Grace Boyce, junior Emma Gitters and sophomores Kennedy and Maggie Norton fronting junior goalie Carson Stephenson (3 saves).
“We came in with a lot of energy,” Boyce said. “We were super excited to be here. When we got those two goals in quick succession, it really gave us an energy boost.”
Bray said that the Gators did not want complacency to ruin their bid for a first-ever B Conference crown — they did share an A Conference banner in 2001.
“We’ve had problems with being too confident before,” she said. “So we wanted to stay strong. We went for every ball. We weren’t going to let up.”
Park (14-3) went full throttle in the second half on the way to a dominating 5-0 victory over Friends (13-5) in the opener of the IAAM triple-header.
The Bruins bolted to a 1-0 lead in the fourth minute on an unassisted goal by junior midfielder Sydney Lowe, and then threatened to add to the advantage with a flurry of penalty corners and shots midway through the opening period.
Friends, meanwhile, had difficulty mounting much of an attack — although the Quakers did manage to earn a pair of penalty corners in the first half and four more thereafter — against the stout backline of senior Montana Love, junior Cici Osias, sophomore Hailey Smith and freshman Rebecca Frank stationed in front of junior goalkeeper Mollie Post.
And then the roof fell in on Friends in the second half when Park went on a torrid 3-0 run in just over five minutes early in the second half.
Senior forward Megan Stombler had a goal and assist and her junior line-mate Julia Russel matched that output while Lowe added her second goal during the spree.
Six minutes after that outburst, Stombler notched another unassisted goal to balloon the lead to 5-0 on a fastbreak that hardly gave Friends sophomore goalie Grace Bowen an opportunity to stop the hard-charging Bruin.
“It took us a second to pull it together,” said Lowe, who led Park with two goals. “But once we got going, we wanted to get it done early and often.”
Park coach Kara Hickok, who took over the hockey program at her alma mater 11 years ago, said that the Bruins are easy to coach.
“They’re an incredible group,” she said. “They have elevated all parts of their game. They’ve been a lot of fun to coach.”
After losing on the final play in last year’s championship match, Notre Dame Prep made 2017 about being flawless in every aspect. The Blazers’ determined approach paid off with its first IAAM field hockey crown Sunday.
Juniors Nathalie Friedman and Olivia Kenny, and sophomore attack Liza Regan each tallied for Notre Dame Prep. Amanda Fruman scored for Garrison Forest.
The Blazers, who won six games in 2015, made a Cinderella-like transformation, reaching the 2016 final against McDonogh. The clock struck midnight, proverbial and literally, as McDonogh scored the game’s only goal on a an untimed penalty corner after time had expired in regulation.
Notre Dame Prep responded this fall with the first perfect season (18-0) by IAAM A champ since 2012. The Blazers also completed the first undefeated run (14-0) through the area’s toughest league since Archbishop Spalding in 2015.
“We talked all season about what we’re capable of and what we’re able to do and putting the talent together,” said Notre Dame Prep coach Katrina Ross.
“We had some unfinished business,” said Regan. “From being here last year, they’re ready for redemption.”
Redemption came courtesy of a rally as the Towson squad scored the game’s final three goals, including two inside of three minutes, to seize momentum.
Garrison Forest (16-5), looking for its first crown since 2012, struck first as Fruman, a senior forward, converted off a long shot into the circle in the 16th minute. The Grizzlies’ defense, led by senior Tessa Evarts, held it up until the final minute.
The Blazers got the ball in the circle where Evarts made a diving stop and a kick save before Notre Dame Prep was awarded a penalty corner. After a glove-slap stop by Evarts, Freidman got her stick on the ball and laced a shot into the left side for the tying score.
“We just realized we needed to play our game,” said Friedman.
Playing at a heightened pace, the Blazers got the lead for good a little over two minutes into the second half as Regan got her stick on a ball knocked down by Grizzlies player and fired it into the goal. With about 12 minutes left, Kenny made it 3-1.
The Blazers, who survived an overtime challenge from Archbishop Spalding in the semifinals, didn’t feel pressure after falling behind.
“They’re just fighters,” said Ross. “They’re so determined to win this and finish this.”
The Grizzlies, the last IAAM A squad to reach perfection (21-0 in 2012), matched Notre Dame Prep’s pace and tenacity.
But, in the end, Garrison Forest coach Traci Davis said the Blazers made enough hustle plays.
“They got the 50-50 balls more than we did,” said Davis. “They’re relentless and showed it today, but I’m proud of my team. We put it on the board first and never gave up.”
Fruman’s goal was only the eighth allowed by the Blazers this fall. The defensive unit featuring backliners senior Alyssa Ritchie, junior Rachel Borzymowski, and freshman Pyper Friedman and sophomore goalie Sasha Dennis posted 10 shutouts this fall.
Ross, a Centennial High grad and former college assistant at Towson and alma-mater Temple, knew the Blazers had potential when she took over last year.
Three years ago, Notre Dame Prep didn’t win a game (0-9-2).
“This group of girls really knows how to get the job done,” said Ross. “Talented, steadfast and they just don’t give up.”
IAAM FIELD HOCKEY CHAMPIONSHIPS
AT STEVENSON UNIVERSITY
PARK SCHOOL 5, FRIENDS SCHOOL 0
Friends 0 0 — 0
Park 1 4 — 5
Goals: Park – Julia Russel, Sydney Lowe 2, Megan Stombler 2
Assists: Park -Megan Stombler, Montana Love, Julia Russel
Saves: Friends – Grace Bowen 5; Park – Mollie Post 3
NO. 20 ST. PAUL’S SCHOOL 3, MARYVILLE PREP 0
Maryvale 0 0 — 0
St. Paul’s School 2 1 — 3
Goals: St. Paul’s – Caroline Pearce, Kerrigan Rogers, Liz Kennedy
Assists: St. Paul’s – Natalie Bray
Saves: Maryvale – Sophie Shucosky 6; St. Paul’s – Carson Stephenson 5
NO. 1 NOTRE DAME PREP 3, NO. 4 GARRISON FOREST SCHOOL 1
Garrison Forest 1 0 – 1
Notre Dame Prep 1 2 – 3
Goals: Garrison Forest – Amanda Fruman; Notre Dame Prep – Nathalie Friedman, Liza Regan, Oliva Kenny
Saves: Garrison Forest – Tessa Evarts 6; Notre Dame Prep – Sasha Dennis 5