There is no one reason why Glenelg's field hockey team is so strong this season. And that's what makes the Gladiators so dangerous.
Glenelg has the experience - it starts 10 seniors - and skill - four returning all-county selections - to make another run for the Class 1A title. The Gladiators fell in the state semifinals a year ago, and are determined go beyond that this season.
"They know they're on a mission that they didn't fulfill yet and they want to do it this year," Glenelg coach Ginger Kincaid said.
So far, so good.
The seventh-ranked Gladiators won the Centennial Tournament championship yesterday with a 3-2 victory over the host Eagles. Earlier in the day, Glenelg advanced with a 4-0 win over 12th-ranked Chesapeake.
"We have a lot of potential to play very well," Kincaid said. "Experience is certainly a part of it. They've been together for a while."
Kristina Schwarz, a senior midfielder and three-year varsity player, said togetherness plays a big part in the Gladiators' success.
"We play together and we think together," said Schwarz, who has scored in every game this season. "We click on and off the field, and we have so much fun together in games and in practice."
Glenelg (4-0) took a 1-0 lead over the 15th-ranked Eagles (2-1) on Schwarz's fifth goal of the season with 18:17 left in the first half. Shannon Emerson made it 2-0 with 10:55 remaining.
Centennial's Laura Angle scored the first goal against Glenelg this season 95 seconds before halftime when her shot from the right side was redirected off the stick of defender Lindsay Ricks into the cage.
Glenelg took nine penalty corners in the second half, and scored on its fourth one thanks to Emerson's second goal with 19:55 remaining. Fifteen minutes later, Nicole Simon made things interesting with a blistering shot into the cage that cut the Eagles' deficit to one. The Eagles kept the pressure on, but could not tie it.
"The last four minutes were very intense," said Schwarz. "We knew we had to step it up and put everything we had into the game."
Centennial coach Gail Purcell thought her younger squad "surprised Glenelg" with its showing and liked how they twice came back from two-goal deficits.
"I'm really proud of them because they never gave up," said Purcell. "In fact they played tougher when they got scored on for the third time."
As for Glenelg, Emerson said her team's performance yesterday is a good indicator to county opponents of things to come.
"I think this is what they can expect to see the rest of the season," Emerson said.
Hammond (2-2) beat Chesapeake-AA, 2-0, in the consolation game on goals by Rachel Donohue and Lindsay Buckingham. Chesapeake (2-3) was the two-time defending tournament champion.
In opening round games, Schwarz scored twice in Glenelg's 4-0 win over Chesapeake. Centennial beat Hammond, 3-2, on Eva Armanas' goal with 6:24 left in the first overtime period.