WOODBINE — Kayleigh Ward said many of her Liberty field hockey teammates hadn’t picked up a stick since the last time the varsity team played. Nov. 9, 2019, to be exact, when the Lions defeated Washington to win the Class 1A state championship.
Ward, a senior and one of Liberty’s captains, said the most recent club season was anything but traditional amid the coronavirus pandemic. So Monday’s game against Manchester Valley at Western Regional Park was a reunion of sorts for many involved.
“I’m not going to lie, it was kind of weird being out on the field again,” said Ward, who scored in Liberty’s 6-0 season-opening win. “It kind of felt like after last year I wouldn’t be playing field hockey again. But it was really nice to be back on the field, especially because we’re seniors and this is the last time that some of us will ever pick up a stick ever again.”
Fellow senior Amanda Cyran had two goals and Caitlynn Szarko, a junior offensive standout, added two goals. Liberty extended its win streak to 28 consecutive games after enjoying an 18-0 record in 2019 and the program’s third state championship in four seasons.
Ward had the game’s first goal, and the Lions led 4-0 at halftime. Field hockey is using four 15-minute quarters this season instead of the usual 30-minute halves.
Cyran scored twice in the second quarter, and Szarko added her pair in the third.
Liberty’s opener was supposed to be against Westminster, the county’s other state championship squad from 2019. But the Owls are dealing with COVID-19 concerns (Winters Mill is also on pause), so the schedule needed to be altered.
Manchester Valley added Monday’s game to the two it was already slated to play this week. But Mavericks coach Denean Koontz said she wasn’t about to make excuses for her team’s performance.
“Liberty has had the same amount of practices and the same situation as we have,” Koontz said. “We weren’t ready. So we’re going to use this as a building block and we’re going to take steps and try to get better each day.”
The Mavericks feature junior Maddie Bare and senior Bryce Gerber as key returners on offense, with senior Sarah Dubsky helping anchor the defense. MV sophomore goalie Chloe Rama was a bright spot Monday with 10 saves.
Man Valley has Francis Scott Key on Wednesday and South Carroll on Friday ― that game will pit against Koontz her daughter, Cavaliers first-year coach Jensyn Koontz.
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Liberty, meanwhile, has rival Century on Friday and coach Brenda Strohmer said she considers that early-season matchup a good test to see where her Lions are in March, when they’re used to playing in September, October, and November.
“We’ve got players playing new positions, we’ve got [new] players that are stepping up ... so the goal is to start playing as a team,” Strohmer said. “They always to win, they love [being] undefeated.”
Goals: L-Amanda Cyran 2, Caitlynn Szarko 2, Kayleigh Ward, Jenna Evans
Assists: L-Maggie Heffler
Saves: L-1 (Emma Meissner); MV-10 (Chloe Rama)
Halftime: Liberty, 4-0
JV result: MV, 9-0.