When No. 6 Manchester Valley’s Erin Herrold set up for a free position in overtime of Monday night’s regional girls lacrosse championship against No. 7 Glenelg, coach Shelly Brezicki had a decision to make.
“We were 4-for-10 on free positions…,” Brezicki said, “so when that 8-meter came up, we were like, ‘Does she take it? Do we pull out? Do we keep possession?’ But one thing we knew, and I said it with three minutes left in regulation, ‘Erin Herrold doesn’t want to lose this game,’ so when it was her on the line, I was like she’s got to take it.”
Herrold raced off the line to her right and slipped the ball hip high between Glenelg goalie Emily Altshuler and the near pipe less than a minute into overtime to give the undefeated Mavericks a 10-9 victory for the Class 2A West Region I final.
“I was on the line, I was like, ‘This is mine. I have to go in and get it. This is the only thing that matters right now,’ and it was,” said Herrold, a senior midfielder. “[It was] unreal. Unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before. It was amazing.”
The Carroll County champion Mavericks, the only undefeated public school team in the state at 16-0, advanced to Wednesday’s state semifinals. They will be the top seed and host Northeast-AA at 6 p.m. They’re aiming for their first state championship since 2016.
In avenging last year’s loss to the Gladiators (14-3), the host Mavericks made up for their struggle with free positions — 16 total, including six they passed on — by controlling 17 of 21 draws and getting a huge game from sophomore Emma Penczek, who had five goals, two assists and 11 draw controls, including the one in overtime.
“She’s an amazing player,” Glenelg coach Alex Pagnotta said. “I don’t think I’ve seen anybody like her this year, private school, public school. Extremely fast. Her quickness and her cuts were just amazing, especially for a sophomore, Super impressive.”
The Gladiators tried to mix it up on the draw, but Manchester Valley’s Aubrey Chopper got the better of almost every one, placing them where her teammates on the circle, especially Penczek, could control it.
Penczek won the first draw and scored on a free position less than a minute into the game to spark the Mavericks to a 6-4 halftime lead, that included three extra-man goals as the Gladiators picked up three yellow cards in the first half.
The Gladiators rallied to open the second half with three straight goals. Ava Hernandez, who finished with three assists, fed Lauren LaPointe for back-to-back goals before LaPointe scored on a free position for Glenelg’s first lead of the game, 7-6, with 17:21 left.
The teams traded goals to 8-8 before Hernandez fed Isa Torres for a 9-8 Glenelg lead with 6:25 left. Mavericks goalie Zoe Cassell made two saves and Altshuler had one to hold off the attack until Herrold knocked down a pass to give the Mavericks a chance to tie.
Brezicki took a timeout and 22 seconds later, Penczek finished a pass from Casey Meredith to make it 9-9 with 2:24 remaining.
“It wasn’t honestly a designated play,” Penczek said. “It ended up being a face-guard (on Penczek) out wide, so we were just popping out wide and me and Casey connect really well and we find each other when needed.”
The Gladiators had a chance to pull ahead after Cassell saved Penczek’s shot with 1:39 to go, but a misconnection on a pass gave the ball back to Manchester Valley and time ran out. Glenelg never had possession in overtime.
Before Monday, the Mavericks had been in only one close game, a 9-8 win over Dulaney, but Brezicki said her team has been using the motto “Row the Boat” all season, inspired by Minnesota football coach P.J. Fleck’s book by the same name.
“One of the things we talked about in that timeout before we went into overtime is this is when we have to row harder,” Brezicki said. “This is what Saturday practices and timed runs and all that are for. I said, “Possession is key, but more important than that is staying focused and staying in the plan of what we want to do here. If they get the ball and go down, we know we can get it back. We just have to stay focused and disciplined,’ and it worked out for us.”
For the Howard County champion Gladiators, the loss was particularly bitter after losing to Century, 8-7, in last year’s regional final. They nipped Century, 9-8, in last week’s semifinal, but fell short of their first state title since 2018.
LaPointe and Torres led the Gladiators with four points each, four goals for LaPointe and two goals and two assists for Torres. Kam Henson added three goals Altshuler, a junior, played a terrific game in the cage finishing with 11 saves.
“Emiiy play fantastic,” Pagnotta said. “She did exactly what we needed her to do. The backer’s there to wear out players and weaken shots a little bit and she needs to step up and make plays and that’s what she did. We got some rebounds, we just couldn’t come up with the ball enough. You give them second, third, fourth opportunities, they’re going to score.”
CLASS 2A WEST REGION I SEMIFINAL
NO. 6 MANCHESTER VALLEY 10, NO. 7 GLENELG 9 OT
Glenelg 4 5 0 — 9
Man Valley 6 3 1 — 10
GOALS: G—Lauren LaPointe 4, Kam Henson 3, Isa Torres 2; MV—Emma Penczek 5, Erin Herrold 2, Haylee Bittinger, Addison Meyer, Casey Meredith.
ASSISTS: G—Ava Hernandez 3, Isa Torres 2, Sarah Johnson; MV—Emma Penczek 2, Casey Meredith, Natalie Burmeister.
SAVES: G—Emily Altshuler 11; MV—Zoe Cassell 3.