Heading into Mount Hebron's Fight For Five Tournament on Saturday at Blandair Park in Columbia, Vikings senior Jordan Stevens said some of her younger teammates didn't know anything about Manchester Valley's girls lacrosse team.
Stevens and her veteran teammates filled the youngsters in quickly about the Carroll County team ranked No. 2 after winning back-to-back Class 2A-1A state championships and running up a 27-game winning streak. They made sure everyone knew just how well the host team would have to play to beat them should they meet in the tournament championship.
The No. 13 Vikings took that to heart and showed midseason form, especially with their patient offense, as they held off a late Manchester Valley surge for a 7-6 victory in the tournament final.
"It's huge," said Stevens, who had two goals and two assists. "When we came into it some of the girls were like, 'Who's Manchester Valley?' and we were like, 'Great.' They're a great team. That's such a huge win for us because we don't see that many teams that are that good in our regular season and having the opportunity to come out and play a great team like this is awesome."
Mount Hebron (3-0) dominated possession in the first half, winning six of nine draws and working their offense for good shots.
After Lizzie Colson scored the first of her four goals to put the Mavericks (2-1) on top early, Stevens fed Erin Demek to tie with 16:37 left in the half. The teams traded goals to tie the score at 2 before the Vikings scored the final four goals of the half.
Demek, Meg Pallozzi and Sorana Larson scored in less than two minutes for a 5-2 lead and Lexi Arens fed Stevens for a transition goal with 20 seconds left.
"They have an incredibly good defense," Stevens, "but honestly, I think ball movement and using every single person on the attack was our key. We really capitalized on everyone's talents."
First-year Vikings coach Lindsay Menton wanted her team to use their opponent's pressure to create opportunities and they did.
"We talk a lot about embracing the pressure. Too often you shy away from that pressure but I think it creates opportunities especially when you're being double- or triple-teamed. If you get the ball out and moving quickly, you'll almost always find that girl open in the middle," said Menton who played at Glenelg Country.
The momentum turned in the second half thanks to a stingy Mavericks defense, led by All-Metro senior Sami Chenoweth, who had at least five caused turnovers, including three first-half interceptions. They shut out the Vikings for more than 18 minutes.
Colson scored twice and Anne Geist popped in a loose ball to make it 6-5 with 12:06 to go.
Menton called a time out to settle her team, which includes six seniors, but lost much of the leadership from last year's team.
A few minutes later, Stevens drew a free-position shot, but passed to Pallozzi who had the better angle for the game-winning goal and a 7-5 lead with 6:48 remaining.
All-Metro midfielder Colson added a final Manchester Valley goal to pull within 7-6 with 1:30 left, but Demek won the next draw and the Vikings held onto possession to seal the win.
Mavericks coach Shelly Brezicki wasn't upset about her team's performance. With only five returning starters on the field and Colson limited to attack as she comes back from a foot injury, Brezicki found a lot of things to be pleased with.
"You have to figure it's going to take a little time to get back into the swing of things," she said of her young team. "Mount Hebron's a great team and so I think to be able to play them to that tight of a game, the second game of the day, clearly … we're doing a lot of things that are good at this point in the season."
In the semifinals, Stevens had four goals and three assists while Larson and Pallozzi added three goals each in Mount Hebron's 14-4 win over North Harford. Maria Auth had four goals for the Hawks.
For the Mavericks, Beanie Colson had three goals and two assists while Lauren Cremen had three goals in a 15-9 win over Mount de Sales. Hannah Ignacio had three goals and two assists for the Sailors.