Atholton field hockey coach Martie Dyer admitted her team was a work in progress entering the year. It had lost 13 seniors. Stephanie Gottwals, who earned first-team all-county honors as a sophomore, has missed games throughout this season because of a nagging ankle injury.
Her absence, combined with the team’s inexperience, resulted in the Raiders dropping their first six contests. Still, Dyer remained optimistic. She saw her team make improvements from one game to the next.
And in Tuesday’s 3A East, Section II quarterfinals, Atholton (4-5 county, 4-9 overall) avenged one of those early season defeats. Tied at the half, the Raiders received two second-half goals from senior Tori Raulin in their 4-2 win at Reservoir (5-6, 5-7).
With the victory, Dyer’s team advances to play top-seded Mt. Hebron (5-2, 9-5) in the sectional semifinals Thursday.
“I knew that I had all of my starters healthy this time,” Dyer said. “Last time, I was missing two of them. So, I had a feeling that we were going to do pretty well, and we’ve been getting better and better each game.”
Gottwals, who has committed to play Division I field hockey at UMass, and senior defender Sarah Courtney both missed Atholton’s 4-2 loss to the Gators on Sept. 14. They were healthy this time, and Dyer said they changed the complexion of the rematch.
Gottwals and Raulin scored before halftime, while sophomore Sarah Nam had Reservoir’s two goals during that span.
“[Stephanie Gottwals] is seriously the most phenomenal forward in the business,” Dyer said. “She’s the real deal.”
The Gators contained Gottwals around the net after intermission, but Raulin added two more goals to complete her hat trick. And this time, Atholton held onto the lead.
Next up for the Atholton is Mt. Hebron, which beat the Raiders, 6-0, to start the 2017 campaign.
Dyer believes the Raiders are a different team now.
“We started off the season looking more like a JV team,” Dyer said, “and now we’re jelling as a varsity [team]. They’ve gotten better, they’ve worked hard, they’ve got an incredible attitude, and they’re just getting better and better all the time.
“I think and I hope that Hebron sees a different team on Thursday.”