Garrison Forest’s field hockey team adopted the motto, “Hungry,” for this fall and reminiscent of the game Hungry Hungry Hippos, they’ve awarded stuffed hippopotamuses to standout players in each game.
Riley Schmidt certainly earned one of those little hippos after scoring two goals to lead the No. 2 Grizzlies to a 3-1 win over defending champion Archbishop Spalding in Sunday’s Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference championship at Stevenson University in Owings Mills.
“I came out really hungry… I was kind of starving,” the junior forward said with a laugh. “Since August 14, we’ve been saying, “Hungry, hungry, hungry,’ and today, it just clicked for me, getting pumped in the locker room, being in with my team in the hotel overnight, that just completely changed it for me and I just came out really strong wanting it a lot.”
The win avenged last year’s title-game loss to the No. 3 Cavaliers and gave the Grizzlies (16-1-1) their second championship in three seasons and their seventh overall — more than any other IAAM field hockey program. The two teams have dominated the conference and played for the title each of the past three seasons.
Sunday after 23 minutes of defensive standoff, Schmidt stood behind Spalding goalie Ruby de Frees as Ella Kokinis sent a cross bouncing toward the left post where the junior deflected it into the cage for a 1-0 lead.
The Grizzlies had a goal called back in the first quarter for a high shot and the Cavaliers lost one in the second quarter when the ball hit a Spalding player on its way into the cage.
Spalding tied the game with 12:12 left in the third quarter when Samantha Pratt finished off a pass from Ally Keith on a penalty corner, but a little over a minute into the fourth quarter, Schmidt struck again. She waited off the left post for another crossing pass, this one from Izzy Vickery, and scored the game winner.
Kokinis added an insurance goal four minutes later, off a corner pass from Avery McComas, for a 3-1 lead.
Schmidt said she benefited from the defense honing in on Kokinis, the Grizzlies’ leading scorer. The senior, who is headed for Northwestern, has had many multiple-goal games this fall and scored five goals in the 9-1 semifinal win over No. 12 Notre Dame Prep Thursday.
“I think Ella’s such a role model and everyone looks up to her,” Schmidt said. “Other teams know that she’s the girl who’s going to get the ball and dribble it through everyone and score every single time like in the last game, so I think they marked her and that left me open in front of the goal to touch it in a few times.”
The Grizzlies finished a sweep of A Conference competition and the title was especially rewarding after losing to the Cavaliers (17-4) last year.
“Oh my gosh, I don’t think words can explain [the feeling],” Kokinis said. “We’ve had this day in our minds since the first day of preseason. We prepared for this moment like there was no other option and I’m so proud of how everyone stepped up. We just played our game and I couldn’t be happier.”
The Grizzlies, whose loss and tie came at the MAX Field Hockey National Invitational in September, did not lose to a local team and polished off the season with 11 straight victories, outscoring those opponents by an average of 3.5 goals with seven shutouts.
During the season, first-year coach Mimi Smith made many adjustments, including several on defense and they paid off, especially against Spalding, which pushed the Grizzlies to overtime in a 2-1 regular-season win and then held down their high scoring offense for three quarters Sunday.
“We’re really used to offensive games and we haven’t had a lot of games showcase our defense,” said junior Morgan Qualls, whose defense allowed only five goals to A Conference opponents this fall.
“I think that there really was no panic when we had a defensive game, because we know that we’re just as solid on defense as we are on offense. There were just minor adjustments when we came out in the fourth quarter. We knew we needed to make it more offensive, hold possession, keep the ball and we made it work and got those two other goals,” added Qualls, who also earned a hippo for her performance as did senior back Grace Barta.
Qualls, Barta and sophomore back Augusta Santarelli along with Maryland-bound goalie Alyssa Klebasko, who had six saves in the title game, have allowed just 14 total goals this season and posted nine shutouts.
Spalding had several scoring chances on two early penalty corners but Qualls blocked the only shot. Midway through the quarter, Smith knew the Grizzlies were nervous, so she called a timeout.
“I had to call that timeout to settle them,” Smith said, “but I think because of the importance of the game and because they’re such a worthy opponent, I think some of the players thought we needed to do something different instead of trusting the process and what we’ve done the entire season.”
The Cavaliers, whose only local losses were twice to Garrison Forest and once to No. 1 Broadneck, had been hampered by the flu the past few weeks although everyone played Sunday.
They had 13 penalty corners to nine for Garrison Forest, but they could finish only one. Garrison put 11 shots on goal and the Cavaliers had nine.
“It’s hockey. The ball bounces strange ways…” said Spalding coach Leslee Brady. “I think it comes down to the fact that they got the ball in the goal and we did not, but I couldn’t be more proud of the effort these girls gave, especially these last couple of weeks.”
IAAM A CONFERENCE FIELD HOCKEY CHAMPIONSHIP
(at Stevenson University)
NO. 2 GARRISON FOREST 3, NO. 3 ARCHBISHOP SPALDING 1
AS 0 0 1 0 — 1
GF 0 1 0 2 — 3
GOALS: AS—Samantha Pratt; GF—Riley Schmidt 2, Ella Kokinis.
ASSISTS: AS—Ally Keith; GF—Ella Kokinis, Izzy Vickery, Avery McComas.
SAVES: AS—Ruby de Frees 8; GF—Alyssa Klebasko 6.