Hereford field hockey is headed back to the state finals for the first time since 2017 and will be squaring off against a familiar opponent.
The Bulls topped Manchester Valley, 3-0, Thursday night in the 2A state semifinals to earn a match-up against Glenelg for the championship on Saturday at Washington College. That game will be a rematch of the 2017 championship game won by the Gladiators, 1-0.
“It’s been the big focus for us the entire season,” Hereford head coach Caitlin Duvall said of reaching the state title game. “Each game has taught us a lesson and we used those as our building blocks to keep getting better. We have been able to capitalize on a lot of opportunities at the right time.”
An aggressive attack late in the first half paid off for the Bulls in a big way against Manchester Valley. Hereford earned three penalty tries over the final two minutes of the half and junior attacker Lydia Bennett made it pay off on the final play of the half.
Sophomore attacker Riley Hackett lined up the penalty and shot a pass in the direction of Bennett. The junior corralled the bouncing pass and blistered a shot at the goal. The shot snuck through Manchester Valley’s defensive wall and gave the Bulls a 1-0 lead at halftime.
“[Riley] is definitely a playmaker for us,” Duvall said. “She really contributes to the momentum of the team, the pace and just getting us going. She’s able to start things for us.”
The Bulls continued to push the advantage in the third quarter, maintaining possession deep in the Manchester Valley zone and earning multiple penalty tries.
Hackett was again at the center of the action with five minutes to go in the third period. The sophomore won the ball during a scramble in front of the cage and fired a shot past the Mavericks goalkeeper for a 2-0 lead.
“I think just being a team and having that bond made us pass and connect,” Hackett said. “We have all been wanting this. We’ve all been wanting States. We are very privileged to have the good players we have. We knew we could make it, so just finishing that [was important].”
Hereford iced the game in the fourth quarter with a quick strike. Freshman attacker Caitlin Meeker chased down a ball out of the defensive zone and used her speed to get behind the defense. Meeker zipped a shot past the goalkeeper and just inside the left side of the cage for a 3-0 lead.
The loss for Manchester Valley ended an 8-game winning streak that saw the Mavericks turn around a season that saw them with a .500 record after eight games. The defense was a large part of a successful season for the team, earning shutouts in four of their previous five games.
“Our defense has been solid for us all year long,” Manchester Valley head coach Denean Koontz said. The coach lauded her team for having such a successful season that can be a launching point for the Mavericks program on the way back to the top.
“We told them they are the foundation,” Koontz said. “They are the kids that put [Manchester Valley] back on the map. [Being in the playoffs] was good for our program.”
The 2A state championship game for Hereford on Saturday against Glenelg will be at 1:30 p.m. The Gladiators defeated Easton, 3-0, in the other semifinal game Thursday night.
“Glenelg is a great, well-respected program,” Duvall said. “They are tough competition, but that is exactly how we want it in a state final.”
2A state semifinals
Glenelg 3, Easton 0
The Gladiators (15-1) continued their playoff shutout streak, still not having allowed a goal in four games this postseason, on the way to the three-goal victory over the Warriors. Glenelg will play Hereford on Saturday at Washington College at 1:30 p.m. for the state championship, marking the program’s first trip to the finals since winning the 2A title against the Bulls in 2017.
Against Easton, Glenelg got its goals from AJ Eyre, Ashley Kim and Skyler Rill. Eyre and Kamryn Henson provided assists.
“Easton was a great defensive team. We did a great job moving the ball and finishing,” Glenelg coach Nikki Trunzo said.
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- Sports editor Brent Kennedy contributed to this report