Catonsville trailed Walter Johnson, 1-0, at halftime of the Class 4A state semifinals, but the Comets came out in the second half, gliding swiftly on the Franklin High field turf, and driving balls down the field like they were shot out of a cannon.
Some Comets said they couldn’t feel the light snow that was falling in the second half of Wednesday night’s game.
Perhaps they were just too quick for it.
The hard work and hastened pace paid off and the Comets (13-3) scored a pair of goals and stunned the Wildcats (13-2), 2-1.
The triumph advances them to the state championship game at 6:30 on Saturday, Nov. 10, at Washington College.
The Comets will play South River, who defeated Blake, 8-1, in the other semifinal.
Maddie Hunt’s drive set up Brooke Stevens for the first goal with 18:37 left in the second half.
Just under five minutes later, Grace Campbell punched home the game winner after shots from Stevens and Catherine Sweeney.
That sequence began after a long drive from senior Maggie Whelley.
Walter Johnson’s Anna Rowthorn-Apel scored her 24th goal of the season for the Wildcats' 1-0 lead in the first half.
“It seems like it is surreal,” said Stevens, who also had three goals in the final two games of the regional tournament. “I can’t even believe it.”
Hunt, a senior, provided Stevens’ scoring opportunity by combining her endless energy with Catonsville coach Lindsay Gullborg’s advice.
“I was just pumped,” Hunt said. “I was just trying to get the ball down the field and I kept following it. Coach let’s us know we’ve got to follow the ball and get it down the field and I know my forwards will take care of it once I get it down the field.”
Stevens (14 goals, 6 assists) was more than happy to get a breakaway, after being thwarted, along with sophomore scoring threats Emma Clark (9 goals, 3 assists) and Sweeney (7 goals) and senior Campbell (11 goals), several times in the first half.
“I felt like the whole time I was getting it down the sidelines, but they were pushing a lot and I had to get a step in front of them,” Stevens said.
Stevens nearly took it across the end line, but at the last second she singed the back of the left side of the cage from the right side.
“I was almost there and I heard Grace calling from the post to cross it and I just hit it as hard as I could,” Stevens said.
Campbell’s game-winning goal with 13:41 left in regulation wasn’t as cut and dry.
Whelley sent a drive from beyond midfield and Stevens carried it into the circle, and that’s where the fun began for the Comets.
“We were just so excited and were just ready to score another goal,” Campbell said. “We were so close and Brooke just hit it and Catherine hit it and it was just right there and I just nailed it in. I’ve never been that excited.”
That left it up to the defense of Whelley, Kelly Reymann and Julianna Keagle, goalie Vanessa Tracy and midfielders Rachel Saks, Kendall Law and Hunt to protect the lead.
They stopped many drives with several well-placed blocks and repeatedly turned them into attacking runs.
“It’s only a matter of time when you are rushing and playing that well,” coach Gullborg said. “You’ve got the adrenaline, you’ve got the speed and the sticks skills.”
Walter Johnson junior standout Rowthorn-Apel also had the speed and stickwork and was constantly around the ball.
She scored on a wicked drive, after a penalty corner pass from Megan Root in the first half, but didn’t get the ball inside the Comets’ circle until there was less than a minute left in the second half.
Reymann, a junior, noted the defense pushed forward to control the midfield.
“We had it down our end and we needed that extra level because we can’t let them have the middle and carry the ball because they had the speed,” said Reymann, who had little fear of allowing an uncontested breakaway. “We do a diagonal line so have the furthest person in the back, so we have the last line of defense. Usually, someone is always there at the right time.”
Even Stevens, a forward, was aware they needed to stop Rowthorn-Apel.
“Our plan was on shutting her down and we really couldn’t stay with her the whole time, but we did the best we could,” said the junior.
Gullborg and Campbell knew the Comets would be in shape for the comeback because of ‘Muscle Monday’ practices, which stressed conditioning, running and more running.
She started those grueling workouts after back-to-back losses to Dulaney and Hereford and the Comets have won 10 straight.
“I definitely think the conditioning paid off,” Campbell said.
But, it’s more than just being in shape that has produced the success.
“In the past five years of my coaching, I have never seen a more talented Catonsville field hockey team,” Gullborg said. “The real credit goes to those 21 players on the bench and on the field. They are the most incredible group of girls I’ve ever worked with.”
The rest of the roster includes seniors Moire Campbell, Maddie Snap and Sydney Corbitt and juniors Chloe Corbitt, Kali Martin, Meghan Saddler, Taylor Hornfeck, Maura Elliott, Kelly Brady and Kirby Sauble.
“They are my pride and joy right now,” Gullborg said. “I only hope to have a daughter like every single one of them. I am humbled. I am honored, I am speechless.”Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun