No. 8 Hawks advance with a win over Westminster; No. 12 Wildcats hold off No. 17 Marriotts Ridge

by Katherine Dunn

Saturday’s Class 3A state championship field hockey game will feature the favorite and the long shot.

River Hill’s Claire Slade scored three goals to lead the Hawks to a 4-1 win over defending champion Westminster in the Class 3A state semifinals Tuesday night. Slade, a senior forward, has 20 goals this season as the Hawks aim to win the second field hockey title in program history when they take on Arundel Saturday at Washington College.

In Tuesday night’s semifinal, top-seeded River Hill and seventh-seeded Arundel both advanced by taking early leads and keeping the pressure on against a pair of 2019 state champions.

River Hill, a state semifinalist in 2019, got three goals from Claire Slade, including two in the first quarter, en route to a 4-1 victory over Westminster, the defending Class 3A champion. Arundel also took a two-goal lead in its first-ever appearance in the state semifinals, and held on for a 3-2 win over Marriotts Ridge, the 2019 Class 2A champion.

River Hill and Arundel will square off for the state championship on Saturday at 4:00 p.m. at Washington College in Chestertown.

Last year, both teams thought they could challenge for the state championship before COVID-19 wiped out the fall season and the state tournament, limiting both teams to short spring seasons.

This fall, they went through very different experiences to get here. VSN’s No. 8-ranked Hawks (15-3) started 9-0 while the Wildcats (10-8) opened 0-6. After Tuesday night’s semifinals at Broadneck High School, they appear more evenly matched than their records would indicate.

For River Hill, Slade was always in position for any ball that came near her by the left post and she cleaned up with all three of her goals off rebounds.

Slade said the entire team had plenty of intensity for a big start as they aim to add a second state championship to the Hawks’ 2010 title.

“It started with our warmup,” Slade said. “Our warmup was probably the best warmup we ever had and that translated right into the game. We kept the momentum and we kept it on offense the entire time. We just kept pushing up.”

Slade said for her it’s just a matter of keeping her eye on the ball and she gave the Hawks a 3-1 lead midway through the third quarter when she punched in the rebound after leading scorer Maddie Vasilios fired a shot off the post.

“She’s been really good all season,” coach Shelly Chamness said of Slade, a senior forward with 20 goals, “but she played the game of her life.”

Later in the half, Laura Mason added another River Hill goal off a rebound for a 4-1 lead heading into the final quarter.

The Hawks dominated much of the game especially with midfielders Vasilios and Puja Nanjappa moving the ball ahead for the offense. River Hill outshot the Owls, 17-7.

The Owls (10-7) managed to cut the lead to 2-1 in the second minute of the second quarter when their leading scorer Jessica Kent tallied her 19th goal of the season, but the Owls just couldn’t generate enough offense to keep pace with the Hawks.

“I told them that they had nothing to be disappointed in, that from start to finish we progressed so well and that we were in the final four,” Owls coach Laurie Nall said. “From where we started until now, it was such an improvement and they played the best game that they could, so they didn’t have anything to be down about.”

Aly Dinmore scored twice as seventh-seeded Arundel upset Marriotts Ridge, 3-2, in the Class 3A state semifinals Tuesday night. Dinmore, a junior defensive midfielder, scored the game winner with 24 seconds left in the third quarter. The Wildcats hadn’t been to the state tournament since 1983 and will try to win their first championship Saturday against River Hill.

In the nightcap, Arundel moved the ball easily down field through the first half thanks in large part to senior midfielder Lana Hamilton and her stick skills. The Mustangs (10-5) seemed powerless to stop her early and she set up one scoring opportunity after another.

Hamilton assisted the first goal with 4:28 left in the first quarter when she crossed the ball to the left post and Brooke Hall finished it. Late in the second quarter, she fired a shot that ricocheted off Mustangs’ goalie Amanda Windsor and Aly Dinmore scored off the rebound.

In the second half, the Mustangs did a much better job slowing Hamilton.

“We knew that Lana is a phenomenal player…” Mustangs’ coach Molly Milani said, “but (at halftime) we talked about putting someone on her and making sure that we’re staying patient and composed when we’re playing defense. She’s such a smart player that as soon as you overcommit and send that tackle too early, she’s going to pull right around you.”

Sticking more closely to Hamilton and keeping her moving the ball down the side slowed Arundel and helped the Mustangs generate more offense in the second half.

Maisy Clevenger got the Mustangs on the board five minutes into the second half on a feed from Natalie Freeman, but Arundel scored a few minutes later with another goal from Dinmore that turned out to be the game winner.

“We like to come out strong, just get something in the cage, put the pressure on the other team,” Dinmore said. “It was us working in the circle, quick passes, quick shots, getting on those rebounds that really helped us succeed.”

The Wildcats also got eight saves from goalie Savannah Brooks, who allowed just one more goal on a penalty stroke by Sophia Baxter.

Playing a tough early schedule that included IAAM A Conference champion Archbishop Spalding, Anne Arundel County champion Severna Park and nationally-ranked Villa Maria Academy from Pennsylvania at the MAX Field Hockey National Invitational, the Wildcats developed into a team that won nine of their last 11 games, including eight shutouts. They didn’t allow a goal in the regional playoffs.

“Having graduated so many seniors, it just took a bit,” Dinmore said, “but we’re really a tight team, everybody’s really close and really supportive of each other, so once we had that transition to the field, we just work together so well and now you can really tell we play as a team. It’s not just one or two good players. Everybody here is working.”

The Mustangs graduate seven seniors, but return many strong players from an overall young team and look forward to making another run at a state title next fall.

“Of course it’s hard to walk away from a game like this,” Milani said, “but I’m incredibly proud of their second-half play and I think that second half might have been some of the best hockey I’ve seen from them all year. Ninety percent of other teams, that would be a win when you play like that. Arundel’s a very talented program. They did a lot of really nice things.”

Pictured above: River Hill goalie Jocelyn Baker enjoys a light moment in the huddle earlier this season with teammates Molly Corriere and Megan Iacobellis and coach Shelly Chamness. Baker had seven saves in the Hawks’ 4-1 win over Westminster in Tuesday’s Class 3A state semifinal. The junior goalie and defenders Corriere, Evelyn Dzubak and Mayzie Connelly have allowed just three goals in the playoffs. The Hawks will meet Arundel in the state title game Saturday at Washington College.

(At Broadneck)

WESTMINSTER 0 1 0 0 — 1
RIVER HILL 2 0 2 0 — 4
GOALS: W—Jesica Kent; RH—Claire Slade 3, Laura Mason.
SAVES: W—Anna Tippett 7; RH—Jocelyn Baker 7.

ARUNDEL 1 1 1 0 — 3
GOALS: A—Aly Dinmore 2, Brooke Hall: MR—Maisy Clevenger, Sophia Baxter.
ASSISTS: A—Lana Hamilton.
SAVES: A—Savannah Brooks 8 ; MR—Amanda Windsor 5.