Manchester Valley’s Emma Penczek went into Saturday’s Class 2A girls lacrosse state semifinals with 83 goals and 116 draw controls this season, so C. Milton Wright coach Faye Brust opted to face-guard the sophomore midfielder, hoping to give her fifth-seeded team a chance to upset the undefeated top seed.
Instead, the No. 6 Mavericks proved that as good as Penczek is, she’s not the whole team.
The Carroll County champions built a six-goal lead midway through the second half and survived a late C. Milton Wright surge to win, 11-10, at Bel Air High School. The Mavericks advance to the title game and will play Middletown Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday at Stevenson University.
Freshman attacker Addison Meyer scored three goals in the first half and sophomore attacker Haylee Bittinger also scored three to lead the Mavericks (18-0), the only undefeated public school team in the state.
“We just talk about not being a one-person team,” Mavericks coach Shelly Brezicki said. “Emma’s still going to do a lot of important things on our field. If nothing else, she’s taking their best defender out, so we talked about the fact that we’ve got a lot of threats and those threats are going to step up and that’s what we have to do as a team. We play as a team, we practice as a team and we finish as a team.”
Despite the face-guard, Penczek still scored the game winning goal and won eight draws, including the last one after Samantha Wolfkill’s goal with 1:58 left brought the Mustangs within one goal. Manchester Valley kept possession the rest of the game.
Junior attacker Shelby Sullivan face-guarded Penczek on the draw and sophomore defender Kailyn Schleicher picked her up when the Mavericks went on attack.
“It was just to really lock her off, make sure we were playing team D with the other six defenders,” said Brust. “This was the first person we’ve face-guarded, so it was new to us, but I think our girl really did well. We wanted to match her speed up with Shelby on the draw and when they went onto attack, we flipped onto our defender face-guard.”
But the Mavericks raced out to a 5-1 lead on two goals each from Meyer and Bittinger and one from Natalie Burmeister. They outshot the Mustangs, 21-9 in the half, and took a 7-3 lead into the half after Meyer’s free-position goal with 9.3 seconds left.
The Mustangs (11-5) scored the first goal of the second half on Katie Roszko’s free position and kept pace until Manchester Valley scored back-to-back goals from Erin Herrold and Penczek for an 11-6 lead with 13:48 left.
In the next eight minutes, the Mavericks took three free-position shots and Mustangs sophomore goalie Alix Bramble stopped all of them as she finished with 11 saves. Roszko scored twice during that stretch to pull within 11-8 with six minutes to go.
Bittinger won the next draw, but the Mavericks turned it over and Emma Jankowiak fed Cailin Hetrick to cut the lead to two. C. Milton Wright won the next draw when it carried out of bounds off a Mavericks player. Goalie Zoe Cassell stopped one Mustangs shot before Jankowiak fed Wolfkill to pull within one.
C. Milton Wright scored their last two goals while playing man-down for more than seven of the final nine minutes. Picking up their fourth card with 3:03 to go forced them to play man-down the rest of the way.
Despite the loss, the Mustangs ended an up-and-down season with one of their strongest efforts, Brust said. Early in the season, they fell, 17-4, to Manchester Valley, which won its first 17 games by an average of 10.6 goals.
“That was an amazing game,” Brust said. “We’re just so proud of how much effort. They never gave up. We came back in that second half, so having to fight, leaving all of what they can out on the field.”
Next Thursday, Manchester Valley will try to win its first state title in seven years against Middletown, a 17-4 winner over Hereford in Saturday’s other semifinal. The Mavericks won three titles in a row between 2014 and 2016. The 1A state title game will take place at 8:00 p.m. at Stevenson University.
They tuned up for the title game with two of their last three playoff games coming down to a single goal. Competing in perhaps the toughest region in the state, they slipped past No. 6 Glenelg, 10-9, in overtime in the regional championship. Glenelg defeated defending state champ Century by a goal in the regional semifinal.
“This win is great,” Mavericks senior defender Aubrey Chopper said. “We haven’t won a state championship since our school was in 1A and now being in 2A, coach B is still here, still coaching. It feels great. We won in 2016 and we had a legendary team that year, so we have some big shoes to fill, but we think we can do it.
CLASS 1A STATE SEMIFINAL
(At Bel Air High School)
NO. 6 MANCHESTER VALLEY 11, C. MILTON WRIGHT 10
CM WRIGHT 3 7 — 10
MAN VALLEY 7 4 —11
GOALS: CMW—Katie Roszko 4, Shelby Sullivan 3, Emma Jankowiak, Cailin Hetrick, Samantha Wolfkill; MV—Haylee Bittinger 3, Addison Meyer 3, Casey Meredith 2, Emma Penczek, Erin Herrold, Natalie Burmeister.
ASSISTS: CMW—Emma Jankowiak, Samantha Wolfkill; MV—Casey Meredith, Sarah Brisson.
SAVES: CMW—Alix Bramble 11; MV—Zoe Cassell 3.