Last year's Class 4A state champion became this year's 3A state champions when Westminster defeated Mt. Hebron, 1-0, in double overtime Nov. 12 at Washington College, in Chestertown.
"It is such an honor to be there but so hard to win it," Mt. Hebron coach Jeannette Ireland said.
The Vikings (13-6) know disappointment. It was Mt. Hebron's eighth trip to the state tournament and sixth under Ireland. The 2009 team reached the state semifinals. Mt. Hebron's last finalist appearance was in 2001 when the tournament was still played on grass at Goucher College.
Westminster's Meghan Macera put in the game-winner with 7:27 left in the second sudden-victory overtime period. Maddy Walsh had the assist.
"It was kind of like a fast beak," Macera said. "Even though in (7 on 7) there are fewer players, (Mt. Hebron's) defense was recovering pretty fast. Maddy reverse-stick passed it to me and I hit it in."
After more than 70 minutes of scoreless hockey, the goal came as a relief, Macera said. "I cried a lot. Even though we are in really good shape, and it showed (in the overtime), we were really tired."
"The kids were exhausted," Ireland said. The Vikings only made one substitution in the game, and that was in the second overtime.
"We put all of our energy into every single minute of the game," Mt. Hebron's Tianna Wallpher said.
"We had our chances, for sure, but not as many as Westminster did," Ireland said.
Westminster defenders Caroline Russell and Ashley Martin often cut off Mt. Hebron's attack before it got to the circle.
"Defense was clutch," Westminster coach Mary Rivera said. "Caroline Russell came up with some really big plays because we knew (Wallpher) was going to get some fastbreaks, but Caroline contained her well."
Wallpher and wing Sam Brookhart couldn't get their little give-and-go working consistently, limiting a major component of Mt. Hebron's offense.
"We just couldn't dodge anybody, they just had a really good defense," Mt. Hebron's Kelly Jones said.
Mt. Hebron keeper Maddy Fisher helped keeper her team in the game.
"Maddy played out of her mind," Ireland said. Fisher made 11 saves and got defensive help from Lindsey Dewey and Jones, among others.
"I thought we'd get one more break and one more run," Ireland said. "I really thought it was our time" to win. "We battled them and battled them."
Instead that run went to Westminster.
"It was just that one run in the second overtime that ended up with being their game-winning goal," Wallpher said.
While the 2009 Mt. Hebron team played in the state semifinals, the 2010 team was eliminated in the first round of regional play.
"We really wanted to redeem ourselves for last year," Fisher said. "And I think we did really good. It was definitely a big team effort to get here."
In the early stages of the season, some of the Vikings had doubts about their team.
"I didn't think we had the skills and I didn't think that we played for each other. Then we started playing for Jeannette and each other," Jones said.
The team developed tremendous camaraderie, Ireland said. She credits senior captains — Jones, Victoria Yun, Katie Schaaf and Emily Bishop — for shaping the squad. Schaaf, who was injured all season, acted as an assistant coach, Ireland said.
Reaching the state championship game and losing was a big disappointment to the team, but Ireland hopes that eventually they will be able appreciate their accomplishments.
"I hope that they'll look back one day and realize it was really special to be there even though we lost," Ireland said.