Oakland Mills hockey coach Chris Marsiglia needed just one Centennial player to illustrate the difference in yesterday's 4-1 Eagles victory.
Senior forward Emily Ward scored a goal and assisted on two more, but more than her statistics impressed the opposing coach.
"She's definitely a difference for them, because she's a scrapper," said Marsiglia, who plays on a Baltimore Field Hockey Association club team with Ward.
"You need somebody like that. She's tenacious. She never gives up. You think that you have it and she's right back with it. That's what my kids need to do more. They have to finish."
Instead, the No. 3 Eagles (12-0 overall, 7-0 league) finished Centennial's first unbeaten regular season. They also claimed the Howard County title already clinched with Tuesday's win over Wilde Lake.
"You look at this team and I know you see Emily, but in my opinion, there's no one star," coach Gail Purcell said. "This team is 11 strong and that is their strong suit. They have a great deal of skill, they've been playing together a while and they support each other."
Nine Eagles play on BFHA club teams.
If she is not the star of a team that has outscored the opposition 31-5, Ward certainly has been the most valuable offensive player. She has scored or assisted on 16 of the last 19 goals. She might have added more yesterday but for a strong effort by Scorpions goalie Jennie Saffle. Saffle (nine saves) robbed Ward several times, twice on penalty corners.
Still, Ward did plenty of damage in the first half alone, assisting Allison Altscher on a corner play and Jen Silverman on a breakaway. Link Liz Sturm sparked the break with a deceptive scoop from midfield to Ward on the wing.
"There is no secret to Emily," said Sturm. "She's just so valuable because you can trust her. It's great especially for a midfielder because you know every time she gets the ball, she's going to do exactly the right thing with it."
The Eagles were on attack much of the game as they outshot the visitors, 20-6. Altscher also had a big day with two goals and an assist.
Keeper Becca Armiger (three saves), sweeper Jamie Barahona and backs Karyn Bruns, Stefanie Scheider and Keri Jones appeared to have their ninth shutout sewn up when Purcell cleared her bench with five minutes left in the game.
But the Scorpions (6-5-1, 1-5-1) scored with two seconds to go when Kim Arnold punched in Katy Ellis' perfect cross.