Katie Haley had been streaking past the Westminster defense all afternoon for all kinds of high-percentage scoring opportunities for Richard Montgomery.
So it came as no surprise when Haley (6 feet 1) bolted into the clear again in the sudden-death overtime period yesterday and went one-on-one with Owls goalkeeper Andrea Kirby.
The surprise was that Haley finally finished off one of those promising fast breaks with a goal that lifted second-seeded Richard Montgomery to a 2-1 victory over third-seeded Westminster in the semifinals of the state Class 4A field hockey tournament at Goucher College.
The Rockets of Montgomery County (12-3) will meet defending 4A champion and top-seeded Severna Park for the title at 11:30 a.m. Saturday and the Owls are through for the season with a 12-3 record in what was supposed to be a rebuilding year.
Haley ended the fast-paced game 6:57 into overtime primarily because she didn't rush things like the Rockets had been doing most of the game.
The speedy senior was at least 15 yards beyond the nearest Westminster defender when she took a perfect long hit from Elisa Norris and calmly dribbled the ball toward the goal, drawing Kirby out to challenge her.
When Kirby got about seven yards out of the goal, Haley drove the ball past her and it hit the back of the cage.
Haley said: "We finally went to the wings later in the game on the fast break instead of trying to force the ball into the middle of the field where something always went wrong. I said to myself as I went in, 'this one has to go in.' It seemed like we should have had 10 goals with all those good chances."
Westminster co-coach Sue Hooper said, "I believe the difference in the game was that they were faster and quicker than we were. But we should have never let it get to overtime [the Owls made a 1-0 lead stand up until 5:13 left in regulation play]."
Richard Montgomery tied the game at 1 when Jessie Campbell broke free on the right wing and scored off a pass from Kate Thirolf.
Neither team had a real good chance to break the tie in the final minutes. Haley took over in overtime and had two excellent scoring chances before finally winning it.
Westminster had taken a 1-0 lead on a Jen Markowitz goal off an assist by Kristen Lewis with 17:07 left in the first half. The scoring play began with a free hit by Sara Warner.
Kirby, who had 10 saves yesterday, made five outstanding saves to protect the lead and it appeared the Owls might sneak into the finals.
But Haley wasn't to be denied in overtime.
"I told our players they were a state finals-caliber team even though we didn't make it," said Owls co-coach Brenda Baker. "I don't think they were that much better than us. It's just that they did in overtime what we wanted to do."
Baker consoled a distraught Markowitz and Lewis moments after Haley scored the winning goal, and Hooper consoled Kirby.
"Andrea blamed herself for the loss," said Hooper. "Each one of our players felt they let the team down. What they've forgotten is we weren't even supposed to be here [they lost 11 top players from last year]."
Richard Montgomery coach Sissy Natoli said: "Once we scored the goal to tie it our players loosened up. Also, we changed our defense in the second half to get more support in the midfield."