River Hill midfielder Maddie Vasilios has a few connections with her counterparts on the Marriotts Ridge field hockey team, Sophia Baxter and Natalie Freeman.
She plays club hockey with Baxter and Freeman’s mother got her started in the sport, but, for the most part, the friendships stayed on the sideline when the Howard County rivals met Wednesday night.
Vasilios scored four goals, easily weaving through the Mustangs’ midfield time after time to create scoring chances for herself and for her teammates, as the No. 7 Hawks used a quick start to spark a 6-3 victory over No. 8 Marriotts Ridge in a Howard County league contest.
The game figured to be a battle for control between two sets of stellar senior midfields, Vasilios and Puja Nanjappa for the visiting Hawks (5-2) and Baxter and Freeman for the Mustangs (3-2), but Vasilios proved nearly unstoppable.
”Maddie comes out hard and we knew that,” said Baxter, who plays with Vasilios and Nanjappa in the Freedom HKY club. “Our game plan was to stay tight, but sometimes things just don’t work out… We tried to force up the middle where we knew Maddie and Puja were, which is not smart. We needed to adjust, which I think there were points where we did and we got goals, we got corners, we got outcomes, but we just needed to do it sooner.”
Vasilios seemed to move the ball effortlessly down field and within the circle throughout the game. She scored the first goal off a corner, taking the ball at the top of the circle, pulling it around behind her and firing in a reverse-stick shot less than four minutes into the game.
Her second goal came early in the second quarter when she moved the ball through traffic and attacked from the left side of the goal, slipping her shot into the far corner. She added two more goals in the third quarter to help the Hawks build a 6-1 lead.
”Such a fun game,” Vasilios said with a laugh. “It’s definitely a challenge because they have probably the other best midfielders in the county, Sophia and Nat. It’s always fun playing against them. It’s a test of our skills against each other.”
The county rivals went into the game having lost only to Top 10 teams — River Hill to No. 1 Broadneck and No. 4 Severna Park and Marriotts Ridge to No. 6 Crofton. Both teams are working to rebuild in key areas while their senior midfielders lead the way.
After Nanjappa fed Maya Chan on a corner for a 3-0 River Hill lead late in the half, Maisy Clevenger put the Mustangs on the board to go into the break at 3-1. Marriotts Ridge, however, couldn’t carry the momentum over to the second half.
Vasilios, who led Howard County in scoring the past two seasons, added two more goals in the third quarter before Carolyn Dzubak’s goal made it 6-1 with 3:02 left in the half.
The Mustangs’ offense finally got rolling in the fourth quarter with a few strong drives to keep the ball moving past Vasilios and Nanjappa.
Addy Obitz and Baxter each scored on a fast break to cut the lead to 6-3 with 5:54 to go. The Mustangs just missed two other attempts, including Baxter’s shot that hit the post with about three minutes left.
“One of the things that we talked about earlier in the week coming into the game is that that’s what we had to do,” Mustangs coach Molly Milani said. “Once they started seeing it working, it was like, ‘Oh, this is going to work. This is what we need to do,’ and from that point forward, we did it, but the fourth quarter is a little too late for that.”
NO. 7 RIVER HILL 6, NO. 8 MARRIOTTS RIDGE 3
RH 1 2 3 0 — 6
MR 0 1 0 2 — 3
Goals: RH—Maddie Vasilios 4, Maya Chan, Carolyn Dzubak ; Maisy Clevenger, Sophia Baxter, Addy Obitz.
Assists: RH—Puja Nanjappa 2, Maddie Vasilios; MR—Maisy Clevenger 2, Sophia Baxter.
Saves: RH—Jocelyn Baker 4; MR—Will Fullerton 15.