Carroll County Times

Field Hockey Preview: Playoff makeover awaits county teams

Westminster's Maddy Walsh, center, runs a drill during practice Aug. 30.

Carroll County's field hockey tradition has been quite visible at the state level for the better part of the last four decades.
The Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association's field hockey history begins in 1975 with the first state tournament. Since then, county teams have made 69 tourney appearances and claimed 20 state championships.
Two Carroll teams won regional crowns last fall, but none advanced to Washington College for the annual state finals. This fall, some county teams will see more of each other come playoff time while others have unfamiliar foes to tangle with.
The MPSSAA's latest regional alignment has five county teams in Class 1A West, two in 2A West, and one in 3A East.
The 1A West region is broken into two sections - Liberty, Manchester Valley, North Carroll, and South Carroll are the four teams in Section I; Francis Scott Key joins Brunswick, Catoctin, and Walkersville from Frederick County in Section II.
Century and Winters Mill are with Middletown and Oakdale in Section I of 2A West, while Westminster is one of four teams in 3A East's Section I.
Century won the 2A West title a year ago while Manchester Valley took the 1A West crown for the fourth consecutive season.
Meanwhile, Westminster reached the 4A North title game before losing to Linganore in overtime. But the Owls bumped down to 3A this year and have Atholton, Mount Hebron, and Reservoir from Howard County as sectional foes.
North Carroll coach Denean Koontz, a member of the MPSSAA's alignment committee, said she understands the logic behind playing in sections within each region. Geography and travel costs are factors when the committee meets to realign.
But, it's possible the top two teams in each region will be on the same side of the bracket with sections, which means they'd face each other before a regional championship game.
"You're going to have to face them at some point or the other," Koontz said. "I've said this every year, it's about peaking at the right time."
Westminster has the most state titles in county history with eight, and the Owls have 23 regional championships on their resume. That's tied for third most in Maryland history, but their quest for a 24th will likely go through some state stalwarts this season.
Sectional opponent Atholton is the reigning Class 3A state champs, while Mount Hebron, another 3A East section opponent, reached the state finals in 2011.
Owls coach Mary Rivera said Westminster's approach to the playoffs won't change if even the regional foes do.
"We're going to go after it the same way we've gone after it in the past," said Rivera, now in her seventh season as Owls coach. "The goal is to get there."
Westminster's traditional run through the regional playoffs hasn't always been a challenge. But a new set of opponents could serve as motivation for the Owls if they want to make another state tournament appearance.
Plus, Westminster had the fortune of facing both Atholton and Mount Hebron during a recent preseason play day.
"I let [my players] know these are good teams," Rivera said. "We'll be facing them hopefully later in the season and hopefully moving on."