Dulaney senior Reece Spann scored two goals and had an assist to lead the No. 4 host Lions (17-1) to a 4-0 victory over Old Mill (8-6) in the Class 4A North Region field hockey championship game.
Spann scored the first goal after a penalty corner inserted by Grace Jung.
“We practice corners a lot,” Spann said. “We have a routine we go through with corners and I’ve had a lot of reps just doing that, just touching the ball in and getting a shot as fast as possible.”
Dulaney coach Kellie Fialcowitz appreciated the ice-breaking goal, which came on a whistling belt-high shot with 16:57 left and was after the first penalty corner taken by either team.
“She [Spann] is a great player and she has come up big when she has needed to this season,” Fialcowitz said. “That first goal, we needed to sort of break the seal and she did that for us. She came through in a clutch situation and got us going.”
Old Mill nearly tied it after a foul led to an untimed penalty corner, which produced another foul that resulted in a penalty stroke.
Dulaney freshman goalie Allie Mercer guessed to her right and stopped the stroke attempt by Old Mill sophomore Kaiya Sabur.
“I was really nervous because I had never saved a stroke before in a game, but I just thought now is the time to save it,” Mercer said. “Usually I try to read their body, but I was just kind of in the moment and I just read the ball.”
The win was the 17th in a row, after a season-opening loss for the Lions,
Both coaches knew the significance of the clutch save.
“That would have been a game changer,” said Fialcowitz, whose Lions won their fourth regional title in the past five years under her.
The Lions have won seven of the past eight regional championships.
“That’s a story of two different halves,” Old Mill coach Heather Arnold said. “I think maybe if we had converted that stroke at the end of the first half, I think it could have made a difference a little bit in that second half.”
Dulaney’s Casey O’Grady and Maggie Kelly had goals and Spann and Zoe Hermann had assists in the second half.
Dulaney junior Mae Dickens and seniors Lydia Naughton and Erin Hill were flawless on defense with help from midfielders Jung, Sidney Snyder and Bridget Kelly.
The Lions will be making their 14th trip to the state tournament’s final four and they have reached the finals twice (2010 and 1986), but never won a title.
“Dulaney is a great team and they are senior-led,” said Arnold, whose squad lost to the Lions, 1-0, in the playoffs last season.
The Patriots played much of the game short-handed because they received eight cards, including five yellow (five minutes) and three green (two minutes).
“We lost our composure in that second half and that hurt us,” Arnold said. “That has hurt us when we play highly-skilled teams like that.”
Despite the loss of senior standout midfielder Alyssa Bashford and two-time All-County [Anne Arundel] senior goalie Ashleigh Bathras, Arnold is looking forward to the future.
“We are young and we have a lot of girls coming back next year, so I just told them at the end of the game, ‘We’ve got to work hard in the off season, play indoor together, summer league together and stay conditioned,’ ” Arnold said. “They can’t put down their sticks.”
Dulaney is looking toward the immediate future.
“We are definitely focusing on going game by game and practice by practice, because I think that has been benefitting us in the long run,” Spann said. “I think right now, we are just looking at state semis, so that’s our focus.”
They already have Baltimore County and regional crowns.
“This is a dream season,” Fialcowitz said. “They are fun, hard-working and as a coach I could not ask for anything more.”