Hammond coach Dave Guetler said when you get to this level, you have to pick it up a notch.
The No. 3 Golden Bears did just that in the second half of their Class 1A-2A state semifinal match against No. 15 Liberty to come away with a 4-2 win at Catonsville Community College last night.
The Golden Bears (12-3) scored two second-half goals and shut down the Lions' attack to advance to the state finals on Friday at Liberty, where they'll meet Loch Raven, a 3-1 winner over Fallston.
Senior midfielder Kacy Williams broke a 2-2 with a header off a corner by Elizabeth Bielefeld with 31:30 left to give the Bears the lead for good. It was Williams' 11th goal of the year. Freshman Emily Bielefeld added an insurance goal with a little more than 15 minutes left.
Hammond's midfield took control in the second half, shutting down the Lions' attack before it could really get started.
Williams and Elizabeth Bielefeld anchored the midfield defense and also got things started for the Hammond attack. Williams scored the game-winner and Bielefeld finished with three assists.
"We didn't feel in the first half we were going to the ball like we should," said Guetler.
"[Liberty] kind of made us look bad with its passing, while we were just following the ball. We started marking up better in the second half and picked it up a notch."
It was the second straight state playoff appearance for the Lions (9-5-1), whose roster is filled with talented underclassmen.
"Our team has nothing to be ashamed of. We played hard and it was a season to be proud of," said Liberty coach Lynn Stone.
"Hammond just ran us down in the second half. They have a lot of experience, where we still don't have that. They came out strong."
Hammond got on the board the first eight minutes into play when Elizabeth Bielefeld collected a throw-in along the right side and sent a perfect cross to a streaking Kisha Jett, who one-timed it past Liberty Angie Primavera for her 14th goal.
Liberty answered with back-to-back goals less than two minutes apart to take a 2-1 lead.
Freshman Shanna Ziegenfuss sent a cross to fellow freshman Haley DeLaurence to tie it at 1-1 with 14:51 left in the half. Ziegenfuss came back with a goal at the 13:44 mark, turning and firing from 15 yards to beat Hammond goalie Amy Nestor to the right side.
The turning point came with 8:36 left in the half. Freshman defender Rene Hines pushed up to collect a loose ball and fired a shot just outside the 18-yard mark to get Hammond even before the half.
"Tying it gave us a big push," Guetler said. "It put us back to zero and we felt we could go out and win the second half.