Centennial sophomore Marissa Lagera lined up on the left center hash with a 3A/2A South region, Section I first round playoff game on the line.
Shot placement had plagued the Eagles all season long, but on Wednesday against rival Mt. Hebron, Lagera tucked her shot perfectly inside the bottom right corner of the pipe to clinch the, 8-7 overtime win.
“I think there is great irony that shot placement has been the thorn in our side all season and tonight shot placement is what saved us in the end,” said Centennial coach Bethany Cunha. “I couldn’t be prouder of Marissa. If there was one person that I wanted to be taking that shot in that moment it was Marissa Lagera and thank god it was in her hands because she took care of business. That was exactly what I asked them to do and she did it. She nailed it.”
The victory meant a little more for Cunha, a Centennial alumna. Cunha had never defeated the Vikings as a player for the Eagles. In fact, Centennial had only beat Mt. Hebron twice prior to Wednesday, in 1990 and most recently in 2008. The second-year coach said she wouldn’t have wanted to share the moment with any other group.
“I knew from the get-go that this team was special,” she said. “It wasn’t only special for me as a coach, but if I wanted anybody to have this victory it was this team tonight. I am proud to be a part of it.”
Mt. Hebron knocked the Eagles out of playoff contention last season and edged them 9-7 in their regular season meeting on April 27, so when seeding came out Centennial was eager for a rematch.
“We’ve always had a long rivalry with Hebron and I think we were so ready for this game,” said Eagles midfielder Claudia Pilcher. “We were pumped and we knew whatever the outcome we would put everything out there and play our hardest and put everything we had in this game.”
Lexi Arens assisted Megan Pallozzi to give the No. 5 Vikings the opening lead, but it was the only advantage they had in the contest.
Lagera brought down the ensuing draw and after three consecutive chances on the hash mark, Laurie Bracey put away her free position attempt to tie the game at one. Pilcher then gave the No. 4 Eagles their first lead after scoring an unassisted goal with 15 minutes, 45 seconds remaining in the half.
Mt. Hebron matched Centennial goal for goal and tied the score three times before the halftime whistle sounded.
Shortly after Pilcher put her team back up, 4-3, the Vikings won the following draw and knotted the game at four after Erin Demek found Arens for the score.
However, Pilcher added one more with 24.6 seconds remaining to give her team back the one-goal advantage.
“They are a good team and I think today they had our number,” said Mt. Hebron coach Lindsay Menton. “I think there was a lot of back and forth and we knew it was going to be. In the end they just came out on top.”
Arens pushed the score to 5-5 after finishing a pass from Kaitlin Rice early in the second half, but Centennial responded with two straight goals to gain its largest lead of the game.
Bracey took advantage of a Vikings turnover with 20:14 left and Pilcher added on about nine minutes later.
Both teams had trouble holding on to the ball, as they combined for 27 turnovers in the game. However, the Eagles did a slightly better job of capitalizing off mistakes.
Pilcher epitomized one of those opportunities on her fourth goal. She made a good check in transition to cause a turnover, then picked up the ground ball and scored on a fast break to push the advantage to two.
“I think we made some turnovers that typically we wouldn’t make and possession is everything,” Menton said. “If we had 18 turnovers or however many we had, which is higher than we usually do, you just got to see that as 18 opportunities. I think the hustle was there. I think the heart was there. I don’t doubt that for a second, but at the end of the day [the turnovers] caught up to us.”
The Vikings continued fighting and cut into the lead with about seven minutes left.
The Eagles were caught offside with possession on the offensive end. The turnover led to a Pallozzi goal, with Arens picking up the assist on the play.
Mt. Hebron got the ball back with three minutes to go after Mary Ellen Kelliher earned a charge against Bracey in transition, leading to Demek's game-tying goal.
With 1:43 left, Demek drove in on a free position and took contact as she rifled her shot top shelf to tie the game at 7, ultimately forcing overtime.
“I was really proud of them,” Menton said. “Dem is always very confident with the ball and I think she did a great job. That is obviously a high pressure moment, but you know there is no one else we’d rather want in that position and she certainly executed.”
Pilcher came down with the opening draw of overtime, but Mt. Hebron forced a turnover before the Eagles had a chance to settle in on offense.
However, the Vikings didn’t have an opportunity to establish anything on offense either, as Madi Griffin quickly got the ball back for Centennial, giving her team another opportunity at the other end.
“In our last huddle right before we went out for overtime [Griffin] said to the girls, ‘I am asking you to find your heart right now. If you want the ball enough good things are going to happen for us,’” Cunha said. “And she was the one who came out with the motivation with the team in those last minutes. She had the composure that showed what kind of leader she is and it came down to heart and we had it. We just had heart tonight.”
The possession resulted in a Lagera free position with 11 seconds remaining in extra time, and she made sure to finish the opportunity.
“I knew as soon she had that ball in her stick it was going in because I have the most confidence in her even though she is just a sophomore,” Pilcher said. “She has so much skill and I was ready for that ending. I knew it was going to happen and I was just ecstatic when she made that. I could not be prouder and happier with this team.”
After putting away the free position goal the Eagles home crowd stormed the field, but Mt. Hebron asked for a stick check on Lagera following the goal.
With fans, players and coaches all on the turf the anticipation mounted as the referee held up Lagera’s stick to make sure her pocket was legal. After a few seconds, he signaled a good goal to officially declare the Eagles winners.
“I thought to myself, how appropriate that we went into overtime? And how appropriate that it came down to a stick check?” Cunha said. “And I just thought to myself, ‘my girls deserve this and it will end up what it is’ and it just ended up in our favor. It came down to heart and we wanted it more. We wanted it more this year.”
The No. 4 Eagles improved to 10-5 with the victory and will move on to face defending 3A/2A state champions and top-seed Glenelg Friday.
Arens (two goals, three assists) and Demek (two goals, one assist) led the Vikings offensively, while Jen Schaaf finished with nine saves in net. Mt. Hebron ends the year at 9-6 overall.
“I just think you really need to hold your head high and at the end of the season we really talked about playing together and playing for each other,” Menton said. “We talked about how that stays true even when you are faced with adversity. Even though we might not be in contention for a state championship at this point, we’re still at team.”
Centennial 8, Mt. Hebron 7 OT
C (10-5), MH (9-6)
Goals: C — Pilcher 4, Bracey 3, Lagera 1; MH — Arens 2, Demek 2, Pallozzi 2, Rice 1.
Assists: MH — Arens 3, Demek 1.
Saves: C — Thorman 6, MH — Schaaf 9.
Halftime: 5-4, Centennial.
Around the league:
Glenelg Country 10, Archbishop Spalding 7 (Tuesday, May 9)
The Dragons went on the road and defeated No. 4 Archbishop Spalding in the IAAM A quarterfinals Tuesday.
Lindsey Marshall led Glenelg Country with three goals and an assist, while Allison Bateman and Julia Sheehan each tallied two goals. Alyssa Arnold added a goal and three assists. Avery Dyer made 10 saves in net for the Dragons.
In their first year playing in the IAAM A playoffs, Glenelg Country has gotten to the semifinals, where it will face top seed McDonogh on Thursday at 4:30 p.m.
GCS (15-4), AS (13-5)
Goals: GCS — Marshall 3, Bateman 2, Sheehan 2, Arnold 1, Glaros 1, Haney 1; AS — Stump 4, Piccirdilli 1, Schepers 1, Jordan 1.
Assists: GCS — Arnold 3, Ayer 2, Marshall 1, Ahearn 1; AS — Schepers 1, Urgo 1, O’Neill 1.
Saves: GCS — Dyer 10; AS — 7.
Halftime: 9-5, Glenelg Country.
Glenelg 20, Oakland Mills 0 (3A/2A South, Section I)
The top-seeded Gladiators moved on to the second round of the 3A/2A South, Section I playoffs after Wednesday’s win over the No. 8 Scorpions.
Rachel Scheinberg had three goals for Glenelg, while Alayna Pagnotta and Emma Letellier finished with three assists apiece.
The Gladiators are set to take on No. 4 Centennial at home Friday.
G (15-0), OM (2-12)
Goals: G — Scheinberg 3, E. Letellier 2, LePage 2, Esmond 2, Giampalmo 2, Cipolla 2, Renehan 2, O’Brien 1, Dillard 1, Malette 1, Callahan 1, Pagnotta 1
Assists: G — Pagnotta 3, E. Letellier 3, L. Letellier 2, Malette 1, Scheinberg 1, Renehan 1, Callahan 1, Duncan 1,
Halftime: 15-0, Glenelg.
Marriotts Ridge 19, Reservoir 1 (3A/2A South, Section I)
MR (12-3), Re (7-8)
The No. 3 seed Mustangs moved on to the 3A/2A South, Section I semifinal after defeating No. 6 Gators Wednesday.
Hayleigh Simpson led Marriotts Ridge with three goals, while Lily Kennedy finished with a goal and two assists.
Haley Tiller scored Reservoir’s lone goal, while Elizabeth Hyde made six saves in net for the Gators.
The Mustangs will hit the road to face No. 2 Manchester Valley Friday. The Mavericks defeated No. 7 Winters Mill, 10-5 to advance through to the Section I semifinals.
Goals: MR — Simpson 3, Hensh 2, C. Blalock 2, Ohnmacht 2, Burd 1, Held 1, Kim 1, Thompson 1, G. Kennedy 1, S. Blalock 1, Clevenger 1, Sullivan 1, Cooke 1, L. Kennedy 1; Re — Tiller 1.
Assists: MR — L. Kennedy 2, Cooke 1, C. Blalock 1, Clevenger 1, Simpson 1, Christianson 1, Kim 1, Ohnmacht 1.
Saves: MR — Miller 3; Re — Hyde 6.
Halftime: 11-1, Marriotts Ridge.
Chesapeake-AA 17, Atholton 6 (3A/2A South, Section I)
A (4-11 overall)
Goals: A — Foster 3, Flynn 1, Gryski 1, Farris 1.
Assists: A — Flynn 1, Gryski 1, Kelly 1.
Saves: A — Eaton 7, Bizokas 4
Halftime: 9-2, Chesapeake-AA.
Wilde Lake 17, Long Reach 3 (3A/2A South, Section II)
The No. 2 seeded Wildecats defeated the No. 7 Lightning Wednesday and will move on to face No. 3 Northeast-AA on Friday in the 3A/2A South, Section II semifinals.
WL (7-6 overall), LR (2-10)
Northeast 23, Hammond 6 (3A/2A South, Section II)
Ha (7-7 overall)
Howard 19, Meade 1 (4A/3A East, Section I)
Ho (9-5 overall)