It isn't easy playing the same team three times in a season — almost every season. That's what the South River and Broadneck field hockey teams do most years. There are two regular season games and then, most of the time, they see each other in the playoffs, like they did Wednesday night.
So here they were again, No. 2South River hosting No. 7 Broadneck. Most of the time they play one-goal games; and most of the time South River wins.
South River won again Wednesday in the 4A East regional semifinal, but this time it was by a surprising, 4-2, margin that left the Seahawks a little giddy and the Bruins slightly stunned.
"Neither of our teams wanted the season to end," South River senior midfielder Haley Gray said. "They have 15 seniors and we have almost as many. But we wanted it more and had more heart."
The win moves South River (14-1-1) into the 4A East regional finals against the winner between Severna Park and Leonardtown that is to be played Thursday. The regional final is scheduled for Saturday at South River at 7 p.m.
Gray seemed to be South River's secret weapon. Senior forward Abbey Lawrence scored early just 2 minutes and 24 seconds into the game, and added the Seahawks' fourth goal with 10:21 left in the game to help seal the win.
"I usually don't score in big games," Gray said.
"That was the play," Lawrence said with a laugh . "We know they know what we're going to do and we knew they'd be guarding Jennie [Milligan] and Taylor [Bresnahan] on the corners."
And that left Gray fairly open on a play South River coach Katie Corcoran decided to add as a new wrinkle.
"When you play each other three times in a season, you have to do different things," Corcoran said.
After South River got up 2-0 with 13:15 left in the first half, the Bruins attack intensified and with 44.3 seconds left, as Natalie Easthom scored on a corner play to close the score to 2-1.
That play shook the Seahawks, but they were able to keep the Bruins from finishing a series of chances at the end of the half. But South River came back in the second half to go up 3-1 and then 4-1 before Broadneck could find its second goal.
"This team had everything it needed to win this game," said Broadneck coach Jen Parks, whose team finished its season 12-4. "We just didn't do it. On their first goal we just watched and you can't give a good team like South River those kinds of opportunities.
"I don't know what more we could have done to prepare. In a game like this you simply have to match the other team's intensity and raise your own game."
No. 2 South River 4, 7 Broadneck 2
Goals: B – Easthom, Littell. SR – Lawrence (2), Gray (2). Assists: B – Meehan. SR – Bresnahan. Saves: B – Thompson (2) , Robertson (4). SR – Johnson (1). Half: 2-1.