7/8 TC The field hockey program team at Harford Community College has a history of winning teams, but never like the one that is cutting a swath through a schedule that lists four-year as well as two-year schools.
The Owls won their first nine games before the streak was halted by the College of Notre Dame, 5-1, Thursday. Against junior-college opposition, the record is 3-0.
The big test for coach Judy Davlin's squad will come Wednesday when Harford plays at Essex CC, the only other school fielding a team in Region XX of the National Junior College Athletic Association.
Harford won an earlier meeting, 2-1, and another win would mean a successful defense of its Region XX title and a return to the four-team national tournament next month. A win by Essex (2-3-2) likely would force a playoff to determine the champion.
Realistically, the earlier Essex match was the first of three obstacles Harford had to overcome to return to nationals. The second, perennially strong Ocean County College of Toms River, N.J., was overcome, 2-1, and Wednesday's game will be the third.
"I think the first Ocean game was a definite turning point for us," said Molly Marshall (Fallston), a veteran starting link. "We're a stronger team than last year, but it took a couple of games to come together."
Marshall is one of five holdovers from last year's team that went 10-6 and lost in the national tournament. There are 11 newcomers, including Paula Beaudette (Rising Sun), the leading high school scorer in the state last year with 27 goals.
"The new players have blended well into our program," said holdover LaDonna Eckstein (North Harford). "Their hearts were set on playing serious hockey, and all we asked was that they try.
"If they were willing to do that, we could work them in. We didn't have any who were just out for something to do or because a friend was playing."
The other returning players are forward Kim Creed (North Harford), link Lisa Aquino (Joppatowne) and back Carrie James (North Harford).
Beaudette has continued her scoring heroics and is the current NJCAA leader with 16 goals and three assists. Freshman Kristin Archer is the top goalkeeper.
Beaudette started out as a soccer player, but her high school field hockey coach, seeing her speed, got her to switch. She has had some trouble controlling her speed and the ball at the same time, but overall has outstanding skills.
"Coming here, there was the pressure of any new player -- I had to show I knew what I was doing, to prove myself," she said.
Archer, one of two All-County keepers to show up, was in a different situation. The farm queen for the Maryland State Fair, she was late reporting to practice, and when she did, she inherited the starting job and Karen Jackson (Rising Sun) was moved to the field.
"There was no way I was going to waste [Jackson's] skills, especially her speed, in the cage," Davlin said. The day before the second game, however, Jackson tore knee ligaments during a practice and was lost for the season.
Of Archer, Davlin said, "She's got the right attitude for a keeper -- she's aggressive.
"Despite taking it personally when someone scores on her [three shutouts, seven goals allowed], though, she doesn't dwell on it. She just goes out and stops the next one."
Of the team in front of her, Archer said, "We just really clicked. There's more communication now than before -- more teamwork -- and these are the keys to winning."
Davlin, who has coached HCC hockey for the past 20 years, shakes her head over this team. "I don't know -- there's just something different. I think every one of them is hurting physically, but they don't complain," she said. "They go out, work hard, and get the job done. You have to admire that."