Glenelg got a shot at a little redemption, and the Gladiators didn't waste it. Up against a Kent Island team that had handed them their only loss during the regular season, the Gladiators came out fired up from the get-go in the 3A/2A state semifinals Saturday at Annapolis High School and never let up on the way to an 11-8 victory.
"Sometimes we come into games flat, almost a little overconfident, but we came into this game knowing that we had to play our best," junior defender Ben Carta said. "That first game (against them) we didn't play up to our potential, but we made sure we did today. We were ready."
The win puts Glenelg in the state finals for the third straight season, although the previous two came with the team in the 2A/1A classification. The Gladiators will face Hereford on Wednesday at 8 p.m. at UMBC.
Glenelg's Mark Darden (4 goals, assist) got his team on the board first Saturday just two minutes in, quickly putting a 10-8 loss to the Buccaneers back in early April in the rearview mirror.
By the end of the first quarter, boosted by a pair of goals from Mikey Wynne (4 goals, assist), the Gladiator lead was up to 3-1.
"We knew how important that good start was, make them have to play catch-up," Darden said. "We took advantage of what they gave us. We saw on film that the backside in the first game was wide open, so we just were drawing and dumping to those backside cutters."
As Glenelg (17-2) was hitting on all cylinders from the onset, Kent Island (16-3) found itself sputtering for the majority of the opening 20 minutes. The Buccaneers did get on the board three minutes in on a goal by Jacob Hager, but didn't score again until five minutes were left before the half.
The Gladiators took a 4-2 lead into the break.
"In all facets of the game I don't think we could have played much worse than that first quarter and I think that goes with not being in this position too many times," said Kent Island coach Tim Kerr, whose team lost in the state semifinals last year as well. "We dug ourselves a hole and you can't do that against a team like Glenelg, which has that experience of being here before."
The two teams traded scores for the majority of the third quarter, with Kent Island getting to within one on three different occasions. But the Gladiators defense never did let the Buccaneers score two in a row and tie things up.
"We really set a presence in the middle right away (on defense) and I think that frazzled them a little," Carta said. "We were able to keep them out of what they wanted to do for most of the game and then got the ball to our offense."
Starting with a tally by Nick Wynne (goal, 3 assists), Glenelg went on to roll off four unanswered goals spanning the final three minutes of the third quarter and first four minutes of the fourth. Nick Forrest's unassisted goal with 7:44 left in regulation capped the run and made it 10-5.
"I thought we capitalized on the stuff we didn't do well in the first game," Glenelg coach Josh Hatmaker said. "We stayed out of the penalty box, we covered that backside pipe defensively and got after every single ground ball."
Kent Island made a late run, scoring three straight goals to cut its deficit to 10-8 with 3:56 to go. Brady Dove (3 goals) scored twice in the spurt.
Ultimately, though, it was too little, too late. After Glenelg effectively drained the clock, Mikey Wynne scored into an empty net as time expired to create the final three-goal margin.
Glenelg now turns its attention to Hereford (18-1), which defeated Winters Mill, 12-7, in the other semifinal. The game pits last year's 2A/1A champion (Glenelg) against last year's 3A/2A champ (Hereford).
"This is what you work for … this is that pinnacle," Hatmaker said. "I think the kids know it's going to take some work to beat (Hereford), but I'm excited for them that they're back in this position."
Glenelg 11, Kent Island 8
Goals: G - M. Wynne 4, Darden 4, N. Wynne, Pagnotta, Forrest; KI - Dove 3, Hager 3, Giuffreda, Plumer.
Assists: G - N. Wynne 3, Forrest 2, M. Wynne, Darden, Salandra, Offutt; KI - Plumer.
Saves: G - Marshall 6; KI - Gonzalez 7.
Half: 4-2 G.