Manchester Valley girls lacrosse coach Shelly Brezicki wore a headband emblazoned with the team motto, "Believe Big," for the Mavericks' first trip to the state semifinals Friday night.
The No. 13 Mavericks kept telling themselves that as they showed their resilience. They took a quick two-goal punch from Queen Anne's then rallied with six straight goals. When that lead disappeared, they won key draws late in the game, including one by Haile Houck to set up Lizzie Colson's game-winner with 1:23 left.
With their 9-8 win in the Class 2A-1A semifinal, the Mavericks (17-1) will meet the winner of Saturday's other semifinal — No. 14 Fallston faces Loch Raven — for the championship Tuesday or Wednesday at UMBC.
"It's been our motto all year to believe big, and that's what we kept saying. We kept just screaming it to each other on the field: 'Believe, believe, believe,' " said Houck, whose team was the first in Manchester Valley's five-year varsity history to win a Carroll County championship.
After Colson, a sophomore midfielder who finished with four goals, gave the Mavericks a 7-3 lead with a free-position goal to start the second half, the Lions (16-3) rallied thanks in large part to winning the first seven draws of the half. They pulled within 7-6 on Kallie German's fourth goal of the game with 9:47 left.
The Mavericks forced a turnover after the Lions won the next draw, but Lions goalkeeper Courtney Baker stopped another shot by Colson. After a series of turnovers, the Mavericks pushed the lead to 8-6 when Rayna Deltuva raced to goal from midfield to score with 5:40 left.
German converted a Mavericks turnover with 2:50 left to pull the Lions within 8-7. Manchester Valley won its first draw of the half, but Baker stopped Katie Walter's shot and Queen Anne's Dorrie MacGregor tied it at 8 with 1:57 left.
On their next possession, the Mavericks were more patient on offense, and Houck found Colson for a 9-8 lead with 1:23 left. Colson won the next draw, and although the Mavericks turned it over with 33 seconds left, the Lions gave it right back.
The Lions won only four draws in the first half, but they finished with an 11- 8 edge because of their early second-half domination.
"I think we finally realized how crucial those last couple draws were going to be for the rest of the game," Houck said. The 8-8 tie "scared us a little bit."
The first few minutes of the game must have scared the Mavericks, too.
They turned ball over when goalie Lydia Eichhorst couldn't handle a pass in the second minute and the ball rolled out of bounds. With Eichhorst behind the goal, Queen Anne's scored, then added another just over two minutes later.
Allie Little got Manchester Valley on the board first. Lizzie Colson tied it with a terrific move in traffic, and Houck, Little, Deltuva and Colson again boosted the lead to 6-2 with 3:59 left.
The Mavericks, who also got a couple of key saves from Eichhorst at the end of the first half and a strong performance from a defense holding opponents to 6.11 goals per game this season, had a few more turnovers than they would have liked, but Brezicki chalked most of that up to first-time state tournament nerves.
"We're young," Brezicki said. "At any given time, I've got two or three, at most, seniors on the field. I've got a lot of freshmen and sophomores out there. I knew this environment would get to them a little bit. We talked about it, but you can't duplicate it. … I think we knew the first minutes were going to be a little tough, but we've had games like that. We started Century that way, C. Milton Wright that way, Roland Park that way. We knew we'd bounce back."
No. 12 Manchester Valley 9, Queen Anne's 8
Goals: QA—German 5, Hendrie, O'Donnell, MacGregor; M—L.Colson 4, Little 2.Deltuva 2, Houck. Assists: QA—Hanna Scott, MacGregor; M—S.Colson, Houck. Saves: QA—Baker 7; M—Eichhorst 3; Brewster 1. Half: MV, 6-3.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun