St. Paul’s takes its game up a notch to defeat Mercy for IAAM B field hockey championship

by Katherine Dunn

When St. Paul’s field hockey team lost to Mercy during the regular season, defender Kendall Lally said the Gators didn’t play with the kind of energy then needed to win.

(From left) St. Paul’s Sarah Mudd, Kendall Lally and Marissa Ey pose with the IAAM B Conference field hockey championship trophy after the Gators defeated Mercy Sunday to win their first title in four years. Mudd had a goal and an assist, Ey scored a goal and Lally led a strong defensive in the victory.

In the IAAM B Conference championship rematch, the Gators showed plenty of intensity as they dominated the first quarter, took a three-goal lead by the end of the third quarter and went on to win, 3-1, over the top-seeded Magic Sunday afternoon at Archbishop Spalding High School in Severn.

Sarah Mudd, Charlotte Lorden and Marissa Ey scored the goals and the defensive unit of Lally, Cate Alokones, Paige Gonder, Sammy Greenstein and goalie Caroline Ferrill (three saves) shut out the top-seeded Magic until the final minute of the game.

Energy “was somewhere we were lacking last time,” Lally said of their 3-1 loss to the Magic on Oct. 12, “so coming in with energy was huge, connecting passes — again something we’ve been working on all season — and when we did our transitions, they were a lot faster. I felt like we were definitely looking for each other. We probably had more confidence than we had in the last game.”

The Gators (12-5) came a long way since early in the season when they opened with three straight losses to A Conference opponents. Even with a new team that needed time to come together, coach Ann Andrews had no problem scheduling six A Conference teams.

They opened with an 11-0 setback against Garrison Forest and then fell to Bryn Mawr and Mount de Sales. The Gators weren’t happy with the losses, but they realized playing those tough teams would get them ready for a run at the B Conference title.

“They were just running circles around us,” Andrews said of Garrison Forest, “so this season was about moving people around, getting them to understand the value of teamwork. In this sport, you can’t play as an individual. Once you play as a team, things start coming together and they just kept building. They peaked at just the right time.”

In avenging their only B Conference loss of the season against Mercy (11-2), the Gators won their fifth IAAM field hockey championship, adding to three in the A Conference from 2001 to 2003 and the 2017 B Conference crown.

“It’s awesome,” Lally said after posing for dozens of photos with her teammates and the championship trophy. “Obviously we had a COVID year, so that’s a step back for everyone, but to be able to come up with [the championship] was definitely huge. It’s something we’ve been working for since all of our seniors were in eighth grade, the last time [St. Paul’s] had won the conference bowl.”

The Gators attacked from the opening whistle Sunday forcing 10 penalty corners in the first quarter and taking six shots. The Magic, which shut out nine opponents this fall, held up against that barrage and goalie Sydney Miles made three of her seven saves in the quarter.

About two minutes into the second quarter, however, the Gators finished their 11th penalty corner on a tricky shot from Mudd. Frank set up the goal with a pass from the top of the circle that Mudd stopped near the right post. The sophomore took two steps toward the middle and used a reverse flick to send the ball over a defender’s stick and past the reaching Miles high into the goal.

“I had no clue that was going to happen,” said Mudd. “When you have the ball and you weren’t thinking of a play before, you just do it and when you see that ball launching into the top left corner, it’s like the best feeling ever.”

The teams played more evenly through the rest of the game, but the Gators added a couple more goals by the end of the third quarter.

A minute after the half, Mudd led a breakaway and passed the ball into the circle where Charlotte Lorden sent in on to Ey for a 2-0 lead. Lorden made it 3-0 by driving home a corner pass from Mudd with 43 seconds left in the quarter.

Mercy, which came into the game averaging 5 goals per game, finally got on the board when Sophia Frasca hammered a drive past Ferrill with 56 seconds left in the game.

Being on defense so much to start initially knocked the Magic players off their game, said Mercy coach Katie McNeel.

“We have just been a goal-scoring machine this season and our defense has not had much pressure on it. I think the only three games that had any defensive pressure were Roland Park and when we played [St. Paul’s] the last time… We weren’t expecting to have to play that much defense and then that put us in a weird funk,” McNeel said.

Mercy, which won four C Conference championships between 2005 and 2009, was aiming for its first B Conference title.

For St. Paul’s, which went 2-4 against A Conference teams including two one-goal losses, the growth of a team with just five starting seniors impressed Andrews.

“Once they started playing well and started having some success, it just kind of snowballed,” she said, “and then they started playing hungrier, more determined and when they showed up today their attitude was like, ‘Yeah!’ The conversation we had with them before the game was, ‘Have fun today, because less than one percent of high school athletes actually play in a championship game. Win or lose, enjoy the day …’ and they played a really big game.”

ST. PAUL’S 3, NO. 13 MERCY 1
(at Archbishop Spalding)

ST. PAUL’S 0 1 2 0— 3
MERCY 0 0 0 1 — 0

GOALS: SP—Sarah Mudd, Marissa Ey, Charlotte Lorden; M—Sophia Frasca.
ASSISTS: SP—Megan Frank, Charlotte Lorden, Sarah Mudd.
SAVES: SP—Caroline Ferrill 3; M—Sydney Miles 7.