A week ago, the Mt. Hebron field hockey team held a one-goal lead over Marriotts Ridge late in the game, only to give up three goals in the final 10 minutes for its first county loss of the season.
On Wednesday, with a one-goal lead over River Hill and the county championship on the line, the Vikings held strong to defeat the Hawks 1-0 and put themselves in prime position to win the county championship.
“We’re very excited,” said Mt. Hebron head coach Jeannette Ireland. “We knew we were in for a battle. We struggled the first half, but we found enough game in the second half. That was the lesson learned from Marriotts Ridge. I told them that we weren’t playing great, but we needed to find a way, and we did.”
If Mt. Hebron (6-1 Howard County, 10-3) beats Long Reach (2-4, 4-6) on Friday, the Vikings will win their first county championship since 2013.
“It was an amazing win,” said senior goalie Hailey Conklin. “In my first three years, we’d never been county champions, so this is special. ... We need to go forward believing in ourselves on Friday (against Long Reach).”
River Hill (5-2-1, 8-5-1) maintained possession for much of the game and for the majority of the final 15 minutes. Despite the possession disadvantage, Hebron’s defense, led by Conklin, didn’t crack.
“I think (the key) was our confidence,” Conklin said. “We were preparing mentally and physically for this game in practice. J-momma said coming out that we needed to believe in ourselves.”
Neither team scored in the first half of the rainy game at Mt. Hebron. The Hawks drew six corners in the half but couldn’t find the back of the cage. Conklin, who tallied nine saves for the Vikings, had several impressive saves in the half.
“I thought it was one of Hailey’s best games,” Ireland said.
“I think in hockey, the cage is only so big,” said River Hill head coach Shelly Chamness. “We had three that missed the cage by half an inch. It was disappointing. Their coach said we outplayed them, and I think we did. That’s how hockey is sometimes.”
Hebron scored the lone goal of the game midway through the second half, when Mia Holland deflected an Ella Ruiz shot into the cage on a penalty corner.
“Against Marriotts Ridge, we saw their goal against us, and we didn’t trust each other,” Ruiz said. “This game, we trusted each other the whole way through.”
Before the game-winning goal off the corner, the Vikings had a corner that was blown dead by an official due to a Mt. Hebron player entering the circle too soon. The insert pass was a poor one, but the corner was reset and ended with Holland’s goal.
“On the corner, Maddy (Craig) on our team left early,” Ireland said. “Shelly was questioning whether it should be their ball. It seems like it should be, but we were able to repeat the corner, and I think that is the official rule. I think that happened to us last year.”
Chamness said her team “wasn’t ready” for the second corner, and she wishes more time would’ve been granted between the two corners.
“There should’ve been more time or something given there was confusion,” she said. “We weren’t ready, and that was their only goal. I thought the (refereeing) was good otherwise.”
Despite the loss, Chamness said she was encouraged by the way her team played against Mt. Hebron in anticipation of the playoffs, which begin next week.
“The team is getting better and better,” Chamness said. “This is the best game we’ve played all season.”
Mt. Hebron 1, River Hill 0
Goals: MH — Mia Holland.
Assists: MH — Ella Ruiz.
Saves: MH — Hailey Conklin 9; RH — Jocelyn Baker 4.