Glenelg may have finished third in the regular season county standings, but it's back where it feels it belongs – primed for another potential playoff run.
After earning a first-round bye, the Gladiators never trailed visiting Century in a 11-8 victory in the 3A/2A Sectional semifinals Friday night.
But Glenelg coach Josh Hatmaker wasn't ready to compare this team to other teams – for example, last year's team that also went 9-2 in county play and reached the state semifinals. He knows this team has it's own goals in mind.
"I know I have been doing this for a while, but every team is different, and we tell the kids that," Hatmaker said. "We told them yesterday at practice – our accomplishments as a school are not just their accomplishments as a team. They have to go out and make their own story. And I think they believe that."
While Carson Marshall led the offense with four goals, the key to the victory was Alex Frith. He controlled the game by winning 16 of 23 face-offs, including seven of eight in a third quarter that the Gladiators outscored the Knights 5-2 to take a 10-6 lead.
"I thought the biggest story of the day was Alex," Hatmaker said. "We had some really nice goals and ran some really nice offense, but just him putting constant pressure on them to stop us. They started conceding (the face-offs) a little bit."
When asked what part of the game was the key for the Gladiators victory, Century coach Zach Hinton didn't hesitate either: "Win face-offs."
"That was the long and short of it," he said. "They had the ball more than us, and they found ways to score. I feel like when we had the ball we found ways to score, but they dominated time of possession."
Aside from face-offs, the first half was evenly played between the teams as neither team led by more than two goals.
Glenelg got on the scoreboard only 11 seconds into the game when Frith found Kevin Coppinger on the right side. Brett Wasson added one of his own less than three minutes later, but Century answered with back-to-back tallies from Andrew Fleishell and Austin Johnston, who assisted each other's goals.
Marshall, however, scored to end the first quarter and start the second, and the Gladiators would lead the rest of the way. Both goals came after rebounded shots on Knights goalie Alex Gipe, a Hoftstra University commit.
"I like way (Marshall) scored his goals. Not only did he have time and room, he had them on the run and he had two goals that were just stick work," Hatmaker said. "Balls in the air, he picks it out and just buries it."
Entering the third quarter with a 5-4 lead, Glenelg scored three straight to take a commanding 8-4 lead.
After trading the next four goals, Century (12-4) scored the first two fourth-quarter goals to make things interesting, but Wasson's goal with 1:14 remaining put away any hopes of a Knights comeback.
Finishing games, though, was something the Gladiators (11-4) struggled with at times this season. In it's last game against Centennial on April 30, Glenelg led 10-6 before the Eagles scored three late goals. The Gladiators seemed to have learned their lesson.
"We get into a situation where they're going to start pressing and try to get us to make mistakes," Hatmaker said. "I thought our kids were composed for the most part. ... I didn't feel any nervous energy."
Glenelg will face Mt. Hebron in the sectional finals on Monday. The Vikings beat the Gladiators, 11-10, in overtime on April 18.
Glenelg 11, Century 8
Goals: G – Carson Marshall 4, Brett Wasson 2, Kevin Coppinger 2, Ryan Dry 1, Brian Loveless 1, Chase Collier 1; C – Andrew Fleishell 2, Austin Johnston 2, Jamison Gomsak 2, Brandon Carr 1, Chris Rinehart 1
Assists: G – Alex Frith 1, Breyer Burford 1, Wasson 1; C – Brandon Johnston 2, A. Johnston 2, Fleishell 1, Rinehart 1, George Wieber 1, Gomak 1