Monday's Class 3A field hockey state semifinal game was a tale of two halves. In the first, the North Region champs from C. Milton Wright, who came into the game having never advanced past the state semifinal round, had plenty of opportunities, but could not manage to score on the South Region championship squad from Huntingtown. In the second, the Mustangs made the most of their opportunities and tucked away three goals over a 15-minute span to seal up a 3-0 victory and earn CMW its first trip to the state finals.
In the 3A Maryland Championships at Washington College, the Mustangs will square off with Mt. Hebron at 6:30 p.m. Saturday.
Playing on the turf field at Franklin High School in sub-40-degree weather in Monday's semifinal, the Mustangs kept the ball in Huntingtown's half for the majority of the first 30 minutes, but despite the offensive pressure, they could not put a ball into the goal.
CMW head coach Janice Rhodes, who took the Mustangs to a 3A North regional title game last year in her first season at the helm of the CMW program, said her team was just suffering from nerves, and that the Huntingtown goalie was one tough customer.
"I think we came into the game a little nervous," Rhodes said. "We had a lot of nerves going on, on the bus ride up here and throughout the day, and that showed throughout the first half. Also, we had never seen this team, and their goalie was spectacular. We kept trying to go through her, and she was a goalie that deserved our respect. We needed to try and go around her, and that's what we wound up doing in the second half. That was the difference.
At halftime, the CMW skipper gave a simple pep talk.
"I told them to get their act together and do what they do best, which is play hockey," Rhodes said. "They're a really talented group, and I think they got it together in the second half. They came through."
Just under three minutes into the second half, the Mustangs did come through, as CMW's Jenny Eckert scored following a wild scramble in front of the Huntingtown net.
Two minutes later, CMW's Haley Matthai got a feed just outside the Huntingtown penalty area, weaved past two defenders, then buried a shot from 15 feet away to give the Mustangs a 2-0 cushion.
With a little over 13 minutes remaining in the game, the Mustangs sealed up the game on an unusual goal. Sabrina Rhodes sent a bouncing pass toward the Huntingtown goal, and Kendall Barry, who had yet to score a goal during the 2013 season, managed to flick the ball into the net from three feet off the ground.
"I don't even know how that happened, really," Barry said. "I just kind of hit me, and I tapped it in. That was my first goal this season, so it was pretty exciting. It was really nerve-wracking going into the second half, because there were no goals and it could have gone either way."