Field Hockey: County's state semifinalists on road to titles

Field Hockey: County's state semifinalists on road to titles
Lori Knights is shown leading varsity field hockey practice at Francis Scott Key High School. Knights played on a state championship field hockey team at FSK in the 1980s. (Bill Ryan / For the Carroll County Times)

Carroll’s two field hockey state semifinalists charted different paths to reach this point.

Francis Scott Key, winners of the Class 1A West Region, lost five of its six county games during the regular season but got hot in the playoffs and has yet to surrender a goal. Liberty, the 2A West champion, is back in the state tournament for a second consecutive season after beating five of six Carroll foes and outscoring three regional opponents 14-1.


Both county teams play Wednesday night at 7 — the Eagles face Fallston at Paint Branch High School, and the Lions take on Hereford at Broadneck High.

Key is back in the state final four for the first time in 21 years, and the players relished their regional crown last week after defeating Walkersville 7-0. Lori Knights, FSK’s second-year coach and a former state champion hockey player at the school, rewarded them by canceling practice the following day.

The Eagles (10-5) made more noise for Knights’ announcement than they did when the 1A West final ended.

Knights said the day off was deserved given her team’s journey to reach the state tournament.

“We talk about that all the time, how this is a tough county to be in already,” Knights said. “As much as the season does matter, the postseason is what [really] matters. Going into postseason, they were ready and they showed up. They were prepared.”

Led by junior attacker Makayla Black’s 21 goals and 45 points, Francis Scott Key’s offense is balanced. Morgan Mattson, a junior forward, has 11 goals and three assists, and sophomore forward Faith Haines has seven goals and 17 points. Suzanne Edwards, a junior and one of FSK’s defenders, has chipped in with eight goals.

Black had three goals in the Eagles’ regional final victory; Mattson and Haines had a goal and an assist each.

Knights said Key won’t change its approach despite being in a state semifinal and facing a Fallston team (10-5) that took down Sparrows Point 3-0 in the 1A North final.

The Cougars have 14 state championships, third most in Maryland history, and last won in 2012. They reached the state finals in 2014.

“You’ve got to stay relaxed,” Knights said. “You’ve got to play the game that they know how to play, with the skills that they have. We’re going to do what we’ve been doing. Just prepare and make sure that they can recognize and adjust their game when need be.”

Liberty field hockey coach Brenda Strohmer talks with her players during the second half of the Lions' 4-0 win over the Mavericks in Eldersburg Thursday, Oct. 26, 2017.
Liberty field hockey coach Brenda Strohmer talks with her players during the second half of the Lions' 4-0 win over the Mavericks in Eldersburg Thursday, Oct. 26, 2017. (DYLAN SLAGLE/STAFF PHOTO)

Meanwhile, Liberty (13-3) is trying to win a second state title in as many years. The Lions are the reigning 1A camps, having won the program’s first crown in 34 years last fall.

Liberty’s goal was to make a return trip to Washington College, site of the state finals, said coach Brenda Strohmer. But the Lions dealt with being one of the hunted teams for the first time in many years.

“We kind of snuck in there under the radar, but now we’re on the other side where everyone wants to beat Liberty,” Strohmer said after her team’s 8-0 win over Oakdale in the 2A West final. “And that’s an awesome feeling. It used to be ‘Oh my god, you can’t be the team that loses to Liberty.’”

Senior forward Brooke Heffler leads Liberty in scoring with 19 goals and 40 points, and junior goalie Grace Fenner tops Carroll in save percentage (91.2). Freshman forward Kayleigh Ward has 11 goals and senior midfielder Branin Ward, her older sister, has 19 assists.


Hereford edged North Harford 4-3 in the 2A North final, and the Bulls are looking for a fourth straight state championship.

“The girls have been working really hard and they know that we are now going to be hitting some seriously tough teams,” Strohmer said. “But they’ve been breaking things down, identifying things that need to be fixed after each game, and then fixing it as a team. Everyone has some input and that’s created a really strong bond between them.”