Though Glenelg High’s field hockey team ascended the area’s No. 1 ranking, there was some question how the Gladiators would respond to a challenge.

They answered that question Monday night.

Glenelg needed every ounce of effort to put away No. 11 Fallston, 2-1, in a Class 2A state semifinal contest at Franklin’s McWilliams Stadium.

Freshman Stephanie Asher’s goal and clutch goalkeeping from senior Christy Bishop pushed the Gladiators into the state championship round. The Gladiators (18-1 overall) will play Century for the crown, Saturday night at 6:30 p.m. at Washington College.

“The intensity level was off the roof,” said Glenelg coach Ginger Kincaid. “We had to go up to that same level.”

In the biggest of her young varsity career, Asher stuffed a Morgan Philie’s (also a freshman) redirect past Fallston (12-6) goalie Sarah DiMaggio with 11 minutes, three seconds remaining in regulation, gave Glenelg the lead for good.

“I flipped in the corner as I fast as I could,” said Asher, who scored her 18th goal of the season. “I think it teaches us that there are other teams that can give us a run for our money.”

Outside of an overtime loss to South River in the finals of the South River, Glenelg steamrolled through the regular season. Though a 2-1 victory over then-No. 1 and defending Class 4A state champ Severna Park in the District V title game put it in the top spot in the VSN Top 20, it didn’t have the atmosphere of a state semifinal. Or an opponent like Fallston.

Seeking their 13th state crown, the Cougars barraged Glenelg’s goal over the final six minutes. Bishop, who came with a 90-percent save percentage, singlehandedly shut the door on the Cougars’ pursuit of a four-peat.

“They were firing from the top, they were firing from the corners, they were firing from everywhere,” said Bishop, who finished with 12 saves. “We knew they [Fallston] had won states in the past. This is the game to win to get us to the championship.”

“This is her senior year and wanted her to finish strong,” said Kincaid.

andrea starinsky and janine yorkThe Gladiators struck first late in the first half as Parker beat DiMaggio with 75 seconds remaining. Less than five minutes in the second half, Conrad scored off a corner pass from sophomore Danielle McDiarmid.

The Cougars, who rallied for an overtime win over Bel Air in last week’s East Region, valiantly tried to respond to Asher’s goal Monday, but simply couldn’t get the ball across the goal line. Fallston coach Megan Grant lauded her team’s effort.

“I think that was one of the most exciting games of high school field hockey I’ve ever seen. It was up and down, I give Glenelg a lot of credit,” said Grant. “Our girls played their hearts out. That’s all I could ask of them.”

“It’s more fun to have an intense game,” said Parker, a USA Field Hockey Futures Elites selection along with Conrad. “Even though it’s stressful, it’s what you want.”

What the Gladiators want most is finally bring a state championship back to its western Howard County campus. Glenelg have fallen short in its previous four title game trips.

“I went my freshman year and I was too young to really realize that ‘hey, you don’t get to go every year,’” said Parker. “It’s really hard to get to states.”