Tenth-ranked Francis Scott Key scored an impressive non-league field hockey victory yesterday.
Middletown (6-2) was bigger and more physical than the Eagles, but Key managed to hold off the Knights for a 1-0 victory at Francis Scott Key.
Key (7-1-2) scored the deciding goal 1 minute, 30 seconds into the second half when Holly Talbert pushed the ball into the cage amid a crowd of players in front of the net.
Nine minutes after the score, Key's Stacey Greene made a nice half-of-the-field -- to the goal for a shot that was turned back by Middletown goalkeeper Elissa Pugh.
Pugh's save seemed to ignite the visitors, who did everything but tie the game in the final 20 minutes.
The Knights, who were ousted from the state 2A regionals last season by North Carroll after winning the state 2A title in 1991, came at Key goalkeeper Missy Muller from all angles with a variety of shots.
However, Muller made four outstanding saves down the stretch, including a kick save of a shot by Kathy Thomas with three seconds left.
"Middletown didn't let up all day," said Key coach Mindi Wagner. "When I first saw them take the field, I thought they were a college team. Those girls are tall, and they're good."
Middletown looked as if it might take a 1-0 lead in the final minute of the first half when Stacey Ridgley sent a rebound of Jamie Snyder's shot into the net, but Snyder was ruled offsides on the play and the goal was nullified.
To make the day a little bleaker for Middletown, the Key goal was scored early in the second half while Middletown coach Debbie Phebus was behind the Key bench attending to an injured player.
But Phebus refused to use it as an excuse: "I couldn't have done anything to stop it. All losses are tough ones. I think our main problem today was a lack of teamwork. We weren't backing up each other."
For Key, it was the third straight victory, and it appears the Eagles are peaking again for the state 1A tournament.
"We picked up speed last year, and we seem to be getting better later in the season again this year," said Wagner, whose team lost to Pocomoke, 1-0, in the state 1A semifinals last year. "The turning point in our season was that 2-2 tie with Fallston [Sept. 28] when we gave up a 2-0 lead. Losing a lead like that was something we could never let happen again."
Key will close its season by playing Walkersville a second time Oct. 19 at Key and then meeting Middletown again Oct. 21 on the road.
Wagner, whose team is 2-1-1 in Carroll County and doesn't have a chance to pass front-running Westminster (3-1) and North Carroll (4-1-1), would much rather be playing Carroll County teams a second time than going against the Frederick County schools twice.
"Our kids seem to get up for the county games more," she said. "But nobody wants to play us more than once since we're only a 1A school. They have everything to lose and nothing to gain."
There is one consolation for Wagner this season: The loss (to Westminster) and two ties (with North Carroll and Fallston) have come against top 10 teams.