Gladiators and Bulls will square on Saturday at Washington College
by Katherine Dunn
Glenelg and Hereford followed the same path through the Class 2A field hockey state semifinals Thursday night to make it to the title game — score early and keep the pressure on.
The top-seeded Gladiators defeated Easton, 3-0, and the second-seeded Bulls topped Manchester Valley, 3-0. They will clash Saturday at 1:30 p.m. at Washington College in Chestertown for the ultimate prize.
“It’s unbelievable and we’re really soaking in this moment,” Hereford senior Katherine Seal said. “In preseason, we got together with our coach and the seniors were talking about what we wanted this season. We wanted a great JV team and they were out here for us as fans tonight and it was wonderful and we also said we want to win states and we made it. We just have to see Saturday. We’re super excited.”
Glenelg’s players certainly felt much the same after dominating Easton in the first semifinal Thursday at Paint Branch High School in Burtonsville.
No. 4-ranked Glenelg (15-1) rides a 12-game win streak into the title game. The Howard County champions rolled over their four playoff opponents by a combined 26-0.
Easton (9-6) could not stop the Gladiators’ fluent transition, led by stellar sophomore midfielders Kamryn Henson and AJ Eyre. Glenelg took 27 shots while the Warriors managed just three.
“I think our attack is really strong at fast breaks,” Eyre said, “and were really good at anticipating each other’s passes and getting ahead of the ball, so I think just knowing how we gel together as a team, we know we’re going to go and our passes just connect, That’s how we’re able to get the ball down field quickly.”
Henson said this was one of the best performances Glenelg has had controlling the midfield and that she and Eyre worked particularly well together to keep pushing the team forward.
“We were trying to finish really early,” Henson said, “because we know their defense was stronger than the rest of the teams we play. We knew they packed the front a lot, so we were trying to get a lot of goals off the start so they couldn’t get that lead on us.”
The Gladiators attacked right from the start and Eyre used her deft stick work to dodge through the circle and take a reverse stick shot for her 22nd goal of the season with 3:35 left in the first quarter.
They added two goals in the third quarter when Eyre sent a pass to Theresa Stiller who popped it in near the left post and Henson fired a long shot into the goal.
The Gladiators’ last loss came almost a month ago, a 3-2 setback against No. 17 Marriotts Ridge, the 2019 Class 2A champion which moved up to 3A. Since then, they have shut out seven opponents, anchored by defender Maddie Key, Riley Oakes, Sarah Walker and goalie Frankie Di Valentin, who didn’t have to make a save against Easton.
Saturday, the Gladiators will try to win their fifth state title and their first since 2017 with a team dominated by sophomores.
“It’s insane considering we’re so young,” said Henson. “Our whole starting lineup is sophomores and two freshmen, one junior and one senior, so for us to be getting this far with such a young team is kind of insane to me.”
Hereford has a more veteran team with five seniors in the starting lineup and the No. 11 Bulls are the only semifinalist that was also in the final four two years ago before COVID-19 wiped out the 2020 state tournament.
They fell in a semifinal shootout in 2019 and the veterans drew plenty of motivation from that loss for their early surge.
“Our main focus was making sure that they did not pass our 50 and when they did that we applied as much pressure as possible just to make sure we get on our offensive end so we can lock in the game early,” said junior forward Lydia Bennett, who scored the first goal on a penalty corner with no time left in the first half.
Although the Bulls (14-2) had the better of play throughout the first half, they only managed two shots against the Mavericks (11-5).
But Riley Hackett made it 2-0 in the third quarter when she finished a ball that ricocheted around in front of the goal after Caitlin Meeker sent it across from the right. Meeker, a freshman forward, finished off the scoring on a breakaway with two minutes left in the game.
“We just really tried to capitalize on our momentum,” Hereford coach Caitlin Duvall said, “and the goal before halftime really helped us have that edge in the second half and it was just kind of building that up and not letting up, keeping our focus.”
While the Bulls’ attack kept the pressure on, the defense of Seal, Kennedy Ziegler, Maddie Fuller, Olivia Barnard and Leah Jones held the Mavericks to just one shot on goal that goalie Bailey Berquist stopped.
The Mavericks, who avenged a regular-season loss to Carroll County rival Century in the regional final, got strong defensive performances from Hanna Cambley, Caroline Foran and Sophie Baer in holding the Bulls to nine shots on goal despite their dominance. Senior goalie Chloe Rand made six saves.
“I think they were beating us to the ball. They were a step quicker than us,” said Manchester Valley coach Denean Koontz, whose team reached the semifinals for the seventh time since the school opened in 2009.
“If we would have capitalized on the couple opportunities we had at the beginning of the game, it could have changed the outcome, but Hereford played a good game. It was a quick game and I think that was a difference with their speed.”
The Bulls will go after their 10th state championship Saturday and their first since 2016.
CLASS 2A STATE SEMIFINALS
(At Paint Branch)
NO. 4 GLENELG 3, EASTON 0
EASTON 0 0 0 0 — 0
GLENELG 1 0 2 0 — 3
GOALS: G—AJ Eyre, Kamryn Henson, Theresa Stiller.
ASSIST: G—AJ Eyre.
SAVES: E—Aubrey LaVezzo 13; G—Frankie Di Valentin 0.
NO. 11 HEREFORD 3, MANCHESTER VALLEY 0
MAN VALLEY 0 0 0 0 — 0
HEREFORD 0 1 1 1 — 3
GOALS: H—Lydia Bennett, Riley Hackett, Caitlin Meeker.
SAVES: MV—Chloe Rama 6; H—Bailey Berquist 1.