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Viking girls smelled victory early in title game


The members of Mount Hebron's girls lacrosse team shared different views as to when the Vikings had Loch Raven on the ropes during Tuesday night's Class 1A/2A title victory.

Andrea Cuzmanes, Hebron's superb senior center, said she sensed Hebron had its first state crown in hand when the Vikings completed a dominant first half with an 8-3 lead.

Tierney Clark, one of Hebron's defenders, saw the evidence earlier in the faces of her opponents.

"Their goalie was crying after the first 10 minutes. My girl [Clark's assignment] was crying by the end of the first half," she said. "They were falling apart."

Hebron coach P. J. Kesmodel was ahead of everyone. During the pregame drills, while assistant coach Chris Robinson warmed up goalie Ali True and the rest of the Vikings went through their passing and catching routines, Kesmodel noticed a startling sight while observing Loch Raven's coaches on the Raiders' sideline.

"I can read body language pretty well, and I always watch the other coaches to try to get a feel," Kesmodel said. "They were so tense. They looked like somebody had just died. I think they knew [what was coming]."

Kesmodel felt all along the Vikings were the better team. Privately, he thought Hebron, with its devastating combination of speed, versatile stick skills and great shooters, was six to eight goals better than the Raiders.

Still, once Kesmodel's expectations were realized, and the Vikings whipped the Raiders, 15-10, to end Loch Raven's six-year, 67-game winning streak, an element of surprise surrounded Hebron's first state championship celebration.

"I thought the game would be close, and that we would pull it out at the end," Clark said. "We were shocked we beat them by that much. We didn't just beat them. I think we embarrassed them."

And by dethroning the Raiders (15-1) in such convincing fashion -- Hebron held Loch Raven scoreless for 19 minutes in the first half and took an 11-3 lead shortly after intermission -- the Vikings erased four years of frustration by achieving perfection.

Over four previous seasons, the Vikings had gone 27-1 and notched three county titles, but they could not win the big one. Loch Raven had eliminated Hebron in the state semifinals in 1990 and 1991. This season, the Vikings rolled through their schedule unbeaten, outscoring their opponents by an average of 10 goals, but always found themselves trailing Loch Raven. From day one, Hebron was ranked No. 2 in The Baltimore Sun's Top 15 poll, one step behind the Raiders.

The Vikings set the record straight Tuesday night. Their 18-0 finish marked their first perfect season and gave them the Baltimore metropolitan area's most notable winning streak. The No. 1 ranking surely awaits them in Tuesday's final poll. And Kesmodel, who won a boys state title at Hebron in 1983, became the first coach in state history to win state championships coaching boys and girls teams.

"How many times do you have a chance to go undefeated, win the state championship and finish No. 1 in the poll? We got it all and that doesn't happen too often," Kesmodel said. "At the end of the [regular] season, I remember thinking, 'We can do it. I hope we don't screw it up.' "

What made the Loch Raven victory even more impressive is the Vikings didn't play their best game. Their offense was sloppy at times, forcing shots and passes down low against a solid Raiders defense. They struggled for possession during part of the second half. And they allowed junior Michele DeJulius, possibly the best player in the state, to score Loch Raven's first seven goals. She ended up with eight goals, giving her 90 for the season.

But Hebron overcame its shortcomings with a slew of exceptional performances.

Junior goalie Ali True, who shared the net with senior Beth Streagle all season, went the distance and produced the game of her life with a 16-save effort. She recorded 10 saves in a phenomenal first half.

Junior Amy Fine, the quickest of the Vikings and the fastest player on the field Tuesday night, was another key. In the first half, she repeatedly intercepted the Raiders' passes, beat them to ground balls and ran away from them in the open field, creating Hebron shots.

The defense played its normal game, harassing the Raiders with rough checking and double-teaming. The Vikings showed their toughness in other ways. Clark played despite a torn ligament in her ankle. Stacia Hepburn, who missed more than a week with a knee injury, came back Tuesday and played a huge role in shutting down DeJulius in the first half.

Cuzmanes controlled the middle of the field as she has done all year, contributing two goals and two assists. And the offense, led by Megan Drake (five goals) and Lori Pasquantonio (six goals, two assists), put on a passing and shooting clinic.

The title essentially was decided in the first half. Drake got Hebron on the board 20 seconds after the opening draw, and the team's traded goals for five minutes. But after DeJulius pulled the Raiders to within 3-2 with 19:18 to go in the half, the Vikings took command with a 5-0 run.

Pasquantonio put Loch Raven away in the second half's opening minutes. Her left-handed shot gave Hebron a 9-3 lead with 23:36 left. A minute later, she switched hands on top of the crease with a Loch Raven defender in her face and made it 10-3. A minute later, she made a nifty, no-look pass to Drake, who ripped a high shot past Loch Raven goalie Sarilee Seeger (six saves) to give the Vikings an 11-3 advantage with 21:18 left.

"Every year, it was 'maybe next year,' " Clark said. "This year, we decided we weren't going to let that happen."

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