Atholton advances to play Hereford in field hockey state final

Atholton senior forward Briana Stine and her teammates worked effortlessly around the Broadneck High School field Wednesday night, while a few hardy fans watched huddled under umbrellas in the stands.

Stine seemed to be gliding as she scored two of Atholton's goals to anchor the 4-0 victory over 3A South regional champ Northern (10-5-1)in the Maryland Public Secondary School Athletic Association 3A state semifinal.

The win stretched No. 9 Atholton's winning streak to nine games, improved its record to 14-2 and earned the Raiders a place in the 3A state final at Washington College on Saturday.

Atholton, which last went to the state finals in 2008, will play No. 4 Hereford, a 2-0 winner over Linganore in the other 3A semifinal.

Hereford, came into the game 16-0 but struggled to finish their chances and had to overcome an injury to its leading scorer, senior Mary Claire Abbott, with 1:49 to play in the first half.

But with just 10.6 seconds left in the half Brooke Raines, on a corner play, beat the Linganore defense for a 1-0 lead and with 1:35 left in the game Layne Litsinger put away a crossing pass from Abbott, who returned for the second half.

Raines' goal was a break through — and turned out to be the game winner — as Linganore denied Hereford time and again throughout the half with goalie Kate Russo attacking every shot and defender Sarah Knotts clearing the goalline of any errant ball that eluded Russo.

"This means so much," said Atholton's junior forward Rachel Day, who assisted on Stine's first goal with 18:02 to play in the first half. "I'm so proud of our team. Last year, I would never have thought this would come."

A year ago, Atholton finished in the regional semifinal game and had something of an inferiority complex until coach Martie Dyer came on board this season.

"Coach Martie helped us realize we are good and showed us how to use our skill to reach our potential," Day said. "As soon as we scored that first goal, I think we all realized we could be dominant."

Day carried the ball down the field to the front of Patriots' freshman goalie Sophie Thon (seven saves) and then handed off to Stine who put the ball away.

"It wasn't a set play," Stine said. "There was a big crowd in front of the net, Rachel gave me the ball and I pushed it in. At that point, I felt if we didn't rest on our laurels, we'd be fine. Just keep playing like it's 0-0."

With 6:07 to play in the opening half, Jennifer Bleakney scored and then as time was running out, Stine scored again. No one could stop her, as she reached the front of the goal and smoothly scored for the second time for a 3-0 lead.

"We play pretty, pretty hockey," Dyer said. "I teach pretty hockey. We'd watched film of [Northern] and we thought we could take them with our style, our cohesiveness and our teamwork."

9 Atholton 4, Northern 0

Goals: A – Stine (2), Bleakney, Cardea. Assists: A – Day. Saves: A – Clinch 6. N – Thon 7.

4 Hereford 2, Linganore 0

Goals: H - Raines, Litsinger. Assist: H - Mary Claire Abbott. H-Litsinger Saves: H - Lynch 3. L - Russo 15. Halftime, Hereford, 1-0.

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