All season long, top-ranked C. Milton Wright used its suffocating defense to stamp out the hopes of opposing attacks.
That's what made Saturday's Class 3A state final so unusual for the Mustangs. Instead of playing from ahead, they twice needed to rally from behind to survive the challenge of No. 7 Mount Hebron.
Haley Matthai scored two goals and teammate Sabrina Rhodes had a pair of assists, as the Harford County power twice overcame first-half deficits in a 3-2 win over the Vikings at Washington College.
"That's not a position that we've really been in this year. So it really tested our tenacity, it tested our perseverance, our confidence," C. Milton Wright coach Janice Rhodes said. "We could've easily let that affect us, but right after both goals we answered back within minutes. That's exactly what I expected from this team."
The win gave C. Milton Wright (18-1) its first-ever state title in its first trip to the finals.
The Mustangs, who entered the night having allowed four goals all season, this time gave up two in the first 16:03. Still, it wasn't enough for the Vikings (17-2), who remain without a state title despite five trips to the finals.
The game-winner came 1:25 into the second half, when Sabrina Rhodes fielded Jenny Eckert's penalty corner and rolled it to teammate Maggie Gallagher, who blasted a long shot past goalie Chachi Kelehan. The Mustangs then managed to hold off several offensive charges by Mount Hebron.
"We talked about being challenged tonight," Rhodes said. "We knew it was going to happen and we were going to see things that we hadn't seen before. I was so proud of how these girls really rose up to the occasion."
Mount Hebron took the lead 7:42 into the game when, following a save, forward Tianna Wallpher sent the rebound in front to sophomore Katie Anderson, who scored from 7-yards out.
Just 38 seconds later, Matthai answered at the other end, following her own shot from in front of the goal.
Then, after withstanding six penalty corners over a span of 5 minutes, the Vikings regained the lead when Monica Linn took Molly Bishop's penalty corner, and scored on a hard shot from just inside the top of the circle.
Once again, however, the Mustangs tied it, this time when Sabrina Rhodes crossed the ball to Matthai, who scored her second goal with 9:22 left in the half.
"It's an awesome experience," Matthai said. "It's something I'll cherish for the rest of my life."
Class 3A final
(at Washington College)
C. Milton Wright 3, Mount Hebron 2
Goals: CMW-Matthai 2, Gallagher ; MH-Anderson, M. Linn. Assists: CMW-Sa. Rhodes 2; MH-Wallpher, Bishop. Saves: CMW-Sy. Rhodes 6; MH-Kelehan 4. Half: Tied 2-2.