Mount de Sales senior forward Mandy Ignacio didn’t forget two of her team’s toughest field hockey losses last year, when she took the field on Saturday afternoon against Seton Keough on the Gators’ homecoming day.
Last year, Seton Keough (7-3 overall, 4-2 conference) defeated the Sailors twice, including the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland B Conference championship game.
This time, she practically took matters into her own stick, scoring twice and assisting on another, to Riley Gentner, in the Sailors’ 3-2 triumph.
The win was the ninth straight for the unbeaten Sailors (6-0 conference), but maintaining a perfect record wasn’t what she was most excited about.
“Last year they beat us twice, and beat us on our homecoming,” said Ignacio, who scored the game-winning goal to break a 2-2 tie with 13:51 left in the second half.
She chased down a lead pass from Leah DiGiandomenico and weaved around a pair of defenders.
With Gator goalie Katie Hutcheson (13 saves) bearing down on her, Ignacio flicked the ball to herself and nestled it into the open cage.
“I decided I might as well dribble and I always pull to the left and that’s what I did, and then I just scooped it in once I got past her,” she said.
Ignacio’s first goal was more of a surprise.
It came less than a minute into the game, and she wasn’t even sure about it.
“I just went by someone and then I tapped it over someone else and then it just went right by the goalie,” she said. “I thought it was going out and I think she did too.”
The Sailors made it 2-0 with 18:40 left in the first half after a penalty corner.
Gentner’s pass went to Ignacio and her shot into the box was redirected by Gentner into the cage.
The deficit woke up the Gators, who were coached by assistant Amanda Malkowski, in the absence of head coach Tom Jester, and they scored two goals three minutes apart to even the score.
Maggie Zeleski deposited a rebound into the cage for the first score and the Gators kept applying intense pressure.
Two shots by Katie Audino and one from Emily Lemanski were blocked by Sailor defender Lauren Hiltz, until finally Audino converted Lemanski’s pass for the equalizer.
The defensive play from Hiltz was stellar and Sailor goalie Eve Lukowski appreciated her work.
“Without her, I don’t think this game would have been possible for us to win,” Lukowski said. “She had her stick at the right place at the right time.”
So did Lukowski (9 saves) in the second half.
She cleared a dangerous cross by Maggie Zeleski early in the second half and had saves on two shots by Lemanski and one by Audino before Ignacio scored her game winner.
Lukowski admitted they felt the pressure after the Gators evened the score before halftime.
“We were all a little nervous,” she said. “I think there was definitely a change of momentum. We knew at halftime we needed to get it back or this could slip away from us, but that change of momentum happened again at the end of the second half and thank God it did.”
She couldn’t hide her emotions after the victory.
“This was like the championship last year for me, knowing it was Keough and their homecoming,” she said. “I’m just as happy as winning a championship right now to be honest.”
Sailor coach Mary Gentner, whose squad faces Class 4A state champion South River on Monday, was glad to get by another tough foe.
“You’ve always got to worry about a team (Seton Keough) that steps in and wants that ball,” she said. “That’s the way we play too and I respect that.”