Falcons claim early heavyweight showdown, 2-1, in double-overtime field hockey opener


by Katherine Dunn

Friday’s marathon clash of field hockey titans Severna Park and Garrison Forest might have lasted long into the night if not for a smart combination play from the Falcon’s Ava Drexler-Amey and Delanie Abere late in double overtime.

With the clocking ticking down the final seconds and a shootout looming, the host Falcons pushed into Garrison’s scoring circle. Grizzlies goalie Alyssa Klebasko came out to try to clear the ball but it got past her. Abere sent the ball from the right side of the cage to Drexler-Amey in front for the game-winner and a raucous celebration.

That sudden-death goal gave the No. 2 Falcons a 2-1 victory over No. 1 Garrison Forest.

Abere said the ball might have deflected off Klebasko, but once she got it, “I just passed it to Ava and she sent it in.”

Garrison Forest field hockey coach Malcom Belin talks to his team between quarters during the No. 1 Grizzlies 2-1 loss at No. 2 Severna Park.

The Falcons savored the season-opening victory, especially after missing the last fall season because of COVID-19 and playing just a short spring season with a revolving roster because of COVID and other commitments. Such a high-profile win makes the promise of a full fall season even sweeter.

“[We’e] very excited,” Abere said. “To be able to go to states maybe this year and have a full season, it’s going to be good.”

For Drexler-Amey getting back to normal means a lot.

“Just being able to do way more cheering, the locker room. We still wear masks but just having so much more energy, bringing it. All of our fans in the stands just really bring back the love of the game,” said the junior midfielder.

The game lived up to its billing as one of the top showdowns of the season. In 2019, the Falcons won the Class 4A state championship and the Grizzlies won the IAAM A Conference championship.

“I think that was one of the best field hockey games I’ve ever seen at the high school level,” Severna Park coach Shannon Garden said.

Against two of the area’s top goalies — Klebasko and Severna Park’s Charlotte Kramer — scoring chances were few. Kelbasko finished with eight saves and Kramer with six.

The Falcons struck first as Noel Stefancik scored off deflection of a Klebasko save with 1:17 left before halftime. That lead didn’t hold up for long though.

Garrison’s Dani Mendez evened the score three minutes after the break. The junior midfielder carried the ball to the top of the circle, dodged a defender and fired a shot that Kramer saved, but Mendez nailed the rebound into the cage.

The Falcons had a chance to take the lead back with 15 seconds left in the third quarter when Zoe Day stepped up for a penalty stroke. Klebasko made a lunging stick save about waist high to her right to preserve the tie.

The Grizzlies, who had no spring season and played just two games last fall, had the better of the first overtime, but it hurt them to be without Mendez, who midway through the third quarter, was hit with a ball on her right cheek causing a gash. She left immediately for the hospital.

Severna Park, with more depth on their roster, had several chances in the second overtime, but Klebasko fought off three shots and another was deflected before Drexler-Amey broke through.

“I think both teams were super tired. Thats a lot of running — not even running, that’s all sprinting,” Garden said. “Emotions were running high, so we were talking to our girls about being calm and we were sending some fresh legs in whenever we could, so they could help out and they did a good job at that.”

The Falcons also played stellar defense against a strong Garrison attack, coming off an 11-0 win over St. Paul’s Tuesday. Day, Meredith Schepens, Bekah Mayron and Charlotte Diez led the way along with Kramer.

“The key, I think, defensively was being patient and not throwing away the ball on bad passes,” said Day, a senior back. “We always remain calm, stay patient and … we were transferring a lot. That was key. Also, I think the midfield did a great job cutting in and out of those pockets so we could find them.”

With 12 seniors on the team, the Falcons have high hopes for this season and the win over Garrison gives them some extra confidence going into Anne Arundel County league competition.

“We’re only going to go up from here,” Abere said.

Pictured above: Garrison Forest goalie Alyssa Klebasko prepares to save a penalty stroke by Severna Park’s Zoe Day in the third quarter of the No. 2 Falcons win over No. 1 Garrison Friday night.

No. 2 SEVERNA PARK 2, No. 1 GARRISON FOREST 1 2 OT

GARRISON FOREST 0 0 1 0 — 0 0 — 1
SEVERNA PARK 0 1 0 0 0 — 0 1 — 2

GOALS: GF—Dani Mendez; SP—Noel Stefancik, Ava Drexler-Amey.

ASSIST: SP—Delanie Abere.

SAVES: GF— Alyssa Kelbasko 8; SP—Charlotte Kramer 6.