Hammond senior Rachel McClanahan talks about the Golden Bears' 6-0 win over Oakland Mills on Thursday, Oct. 5.
Three years ago as a freshman, Rachel McClanahan was part of a Hammond field hockey team that did not win a single game.
On Oct. 5, following a 6-0 road win over Oakland Mills, McClanahan and the Golden Bears moved one step closer to guaranteeing themselves a winning record for the first time in more than 10 years.
"This has been such a different season than all the others. We are so proud of ourselves," said McClanahan, who scored three of her team's goals against the Scorpions. "My freshman year we won no games, my sophomore year we won one game, and so the fact that we have been close [this year] with teams like Centennial and other such strong teams that aren't even in our bracket is such a big deal."
At 6-4 overall on the season, Hammond needs just one more victory — either against Howard (Oct. 12) or Long Reach (Oct. 17) to close the regular season or against its opponent in the opening round of the playoffs —to finish above .500.
According to coach Lauren Harrison, who took over as head coach last season, the entire mentality of the program has changed in a very short period of time.
"The spirits of everyone around the program are so high, there is just so much more positivity than there has been in recent seasons and I think that's translating into results on the field," Harrison said. "Every day the girls are excited to be here and have been really committed to getting better."
Among the biggest improvements this fall for Hammond (2-2, 6-4) has been the ability to get an early lead and then methodically build on it. Of the team's six victories, five have now been by at least three goals.
Against Oakland Mills (0-4, 1-7), it took a few minutes for the Golden Bears to settle in. But once they did, and Tiana Swierski found the back of the cage with 23:43 left in the opening half, the team never slowed down.
Midway through the first half, McClanahan converted her first goal of the day to increase the lead to 2-0. Then with 12:10 remaining before halftime, she added another to increase the lead to three.
"Our previous couple games against Oakland Mills have been one-goal games, so we knew we couldn't slack off in the beginning," McClanahan said. "We really wanted to establish our hard work right away today and set the tone kind of like we have in a lot of the other games we've won this year."
After halftime, McClanahan completed her hat trick by slipping the ball between the pads of Oakland Mills goalie Justis Steele (18 saves) to make it a 4-0 game with 26:25 left.
Later in the second half, Swierski added her second goal of the game off a feed from McClanahan and then Bethany Hewitt got in on the offensive effort with a goal in the final minutes to create the final six-goal margin.