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Hereford tops Glenelg to earn a berth in Class 2A field hockey state final

Hereford's field hockey team, seen here celebrating a goal during the Baltimore County championship game earlier this fall, defeated Glenelg on Monday in the 2A state semifinals.
Hereford's field hockey team, seen here celebrating a goal during the Baltimore County championship game earlier this fall, defeated Glenelg on Monday in the 2A state semifinals. (Brian Krista / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

While field hockey is generally not regarded as a contact sport, Hereford's physicality may have played a major role in the Bulls' 1-0 victory over Glenelg in Class 2A state semifinal on Monday night at Paint Branch High.

The Baltimore County champions will meet Kent Island for the state title on Nov. 8 at Washington College, in Chestertown, at 6:30 p.m.

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After a first half in which the Bulls (16-1-1) were held scoreless, they asserted themselves in the final 30 minutes to keep the Gladiators (14-3-1) on their heels for most of the final period.

Hereford dominated possession and spent a great deal of time in Glenelg's circle, firing nine shots on junior goalie Noelle Frost (9 saves) and pestering the defense.

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Despite all of the pressure, Frost and her defensive mates, sophomores Laney Treacy and Grace Olson and senior Jeanine Gezelle, were more than up to the task of frustrating Bulls' shooters.

The game's only goal came on the second rebound of two shots by sophomore attacker Emma Reider that caromed off Frost's pads toward senior Maggie Gutbelet, who shoveled in the game-winner with 24:46 remaining in regulation. It was her team-leading 14th goal of the season complemented by nine assists.

That sequence was followed  by several more like it, with Hereford forcing the ball into the circle and the Gladiators scrambling to knock it away.

Meanwhile, it was a struggle for Glenelg to carry the ball past midfield, much less get into its own offensive end.

"Hereford's a lot like us," said veteran Glenelg coach Ginger Kincaid, who picked up her 395th career win in 38 years with a 4-1 triumph over Long Reach in the East Region final on Oct. 29. "They like to dump the ball to the baseline. They were just a little more mature. They had more body strength that we did."

But Frost (9 saves) was the equalizer, denying shot after shot and kicking away passes that could have caused dangerous opportunities for the Bulls.

"Their goalie was phenomenal," Hereford coach Caitlin MacKenzie said. "And their defense was, too. We had to make some adjustments to get around them. We used shorter passes to get ball control."

Gutberlet said the Bulls' strategy in the circle was to keep applying pressure until something happened.

She also said that knocking in the rebound was not just pure happenstance.

"One of the big things we work on in practice is rebounds," Gutberlet said. "We just tried to pound it, pound it, pound it. We had to do that all game."

On the defensive end of the field, things were pretty boring for Hereford seniors Emily Palumbo and Emma Vicchio and sophomore Dana Meehling.

Despite a couple of runs into the circle  by Gladiator sophomore forward Leanne Duncan, including one in the final two minutes that came dangerously close to the goal, the trio held Glenelg without a shot in the second half and to three total.

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Even so, Palumbo said they were wary of Duncan.

"We had our eyes on her," she said. "We were always looking to see where she was."

Palumbo did not mention the Galdiators' top scorers, senior forward Hannah Doughty (11 goals, 1 assist) or sophomore midfielder Grace Olson (8 and 4), even though Olson came closest to scoring against Hereford. Her apparent goal was disallowed, however, when officials ruled that a Glenelg player interfered with Hereford goalie Kamryn Kelbaugh (3 saves) on the play.

The ruling helped preserve the Bulls' 12th shutout of the season and gives them the opportunity for redemption after falling in consecutive championship matches in 2012 and 2013.

"Altholton creamed us (in 2012) and we lost to Century last year," Gutlerbet said. "And a lot of that had a lot to do with us not being close as a team. I think we were a good group of girls, but we just weren't that close. This year, every player has a strong bond with each other."

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