Crofton High sophomore forward Charlotte DeForest perhaps best summed up her team’s feelings of reaching the Class 3A state field hockey championship.
“I think this is kind of surreal now. At the beginning of the season, going to states was our main goal, and I think all of us as a team are just so happy to like have that goal become a reality. We’re all very thankful for this opportunity.”
The fourth-ranked Cardinals, in just the program’s second varsity season, will play for a state title Saturday after a 6-3 victory over No. 11 Westminster in a 3A state semifinal at Glen Burnie.
Crofton (15-2) overall will play No. 5 River Hill for the 3A crown, Saturday evening at 6:30 in the final match of “Championship Saturday” at Stevenson University. The Hawks defeated eighth-ranked Marriotts Ridge, 2-0, in Wednesday evening’s other state 3A semifinal match.
Crofton, which only two setbacks were courtesy of top-ranked and 4A title game-bound Broadneck, is playing with its first senior class. The Cardinals were impressive Wednesday in eliminating Westminster, a 10-time state champion.
“We’re pretty excited about it; this is your first year with four grades,” Crofton coach Amy Skrickus said. “I think we knew we had a very talented team. We’re still very young, so I knew it was not out of the realm of possibility, but as we’ve been playing and just getting stronger and stronger, it’s gotten to be a little bit more realistic.”
To close their Cinderella-esque run with a historic first state crown, the Cardinals (15-2) will have to contain perhaps the state’s most prolific offensive performers in River Hill senior midfielder Maddie Vasilios, who posted both of her team’s goals in the first in Wednesday’s triumph over Howard County rival Marriotts Ridge.
Proving true the old sports axiom that its difficult to defeat the same team three times in a single season, the powerful Hawks (16-2) offense, which had produced 11 combined goals in a pair of wins against the Mustangs (11-5) during regular season play, was frustrated by Marriotts Ridge’s stacked defense and constant double teams and harassment of the Vasilios, a University of Maryland commit who entered Wednesday with 47 goals along with 18 assists, and Stanford-bound Puja Nanjappa during lengthy stretches of the match.
“This is our third time that we played them, so they know what Maddie can do,” said River Hill coach Shelly Chamness. “I think they were backing off a little bit. I do think their extra defense back there really helped. It made it hard to get it in, and our corners weren’t as sharp.
“We’re having some corner issues lately, but it’s hard to play a team a third time. They know all of your corners. This week we tried to change them up, but it’s difficult.”
Vasilios finally broke the scoreless deadlock with 10 minutes, 53 seconds left in the second quarter during a penalty corner. She received the pass at the top of the scoring circle, spun around a couple of defenders, and shot cleanly into the cage for the 1-0 lead.
Except for a run of penalty corners early in the stages of the second half, Marriotts Ridge dominated possession in the third quarter to keep the game a one-goal affair going into the final 15 minutes.
“We knew coming into the game, we had to have pressure on Maddie as much as possible, and we had to keep the ball off her stick, especially under our 25,” Mustangs coach Molly Milani said. “We really talked about tackling early, tackling outside the circle, and really outside the 25 because they’re really good on corners. So as much as possible, we had to shut that down.
We came in confident today. Today, we really came in ready to play. That was the best play I’ve seen from them.”
Vasilios appeared to punch in her team’s second goal early in the fourth quarter, but her score was overruled as her shot was too high for a first hit on a penalty corner.
With 8:48 left in the match, however, Vasilios was able to claim that second goal on a reverse stick shot on a counterattack.
“For me personally (the disallowed goal), it was a huge motivator,” Vasilios said. “I thought that it would have counted. I think not only for myself, but the whole team, we were kind of just like `Darn. Like, it’s fine. Like, now let’s use this, this adrenaline, this momentum, and just go forward and get another one.’”
While goals were hard to come by between the Howard County rivals, the scoreboard operator was kept busy in the nightcap match between Crofton and Westminster, with at least one goal being produced in all four quarters.
DeForest started the scoring off an assist in transition from Olivia Feeley with 4:32 left in the first quarter. Jess Kent knotted the score roughly two minutes into the second quarter as she rattled the cage off a deflected shot for the Owls, who have reached the state playoffs 30 times, second only in all-time appearances to Severna Park (34).
The Cardinals opened up a 3-1 halftime advantage through goals by Kylie Corcoran (20 goals this fall) during a penalty corner as she dribbled around the defenders for a clean look at the cage and DeForest, who cleaned up a weakly cleared ball deep in the circle.
Miranda Moshang cut the Westminster deficit to 3-2 as she punched in a deflected cross a little more than three minutes into the second half to start a back-and-forth third quarter that ended with the Cardinals holding a 5-3 advantage.
That’s because Mary-Cate Parks sandwiched a pair of goals around a strike by Westminster’s Caroline Beakes, the second of which came on a penalty corner with 20 seconds remaining in the quarter.
Emily Najarian then essentially put the match out of reach for the Cardinals with roughly 5 ½ minutes left in the semifinal match on a reverse stick strike off a nifty pass from Feeley following a quick restart.
“I think we’ve been communicating a lot more and that’s something we’ve really been working on,” said DeForest, whose squad has outscored its four playoff opponents by a combined 26-3 score. “It was just such a great game all around.”
MPSSAA FIELD HOCKEY TOURNAMENT
Class 3A state semifinals
at Glen Burnie
NO. 5 RIVER HILL 2, NO. 8 MARRIOTTS RIDGE 0
Marriotts Ridge 0 0 0 0 - 0
River Hill 0 1 0 1 - 2
GOALS: River Hill - Maddie Vasilios 2.
SAVES: Marriotts Ridge - Will Fullerton 9l River Hill - Jocelyn Baker 1.
NO. 4 CROFTON 6, NO. 11 WESTMINSTER 3
Crofton 1 2 2 1 - 6
Westminster 0 1 2 0 - 3
GOALS: Crofton - Charlotte DeForest 2, Mary-Cate Parks 2, Kylie Corcoran, Emily Najarian. Westminster - Jess Kent, Miranda Moshang, Caroline Beakes.
ASSISTS: Crofton - Olivia Feeley 2.
SAVES: Crofton - Ryleigh Osborne 3. Westminster - Andra Hull 5.
Class 3A state championship
at Stevenson University
Crofton (15-2) vs. River Hill (16-2), 6:30 p.m.