Poly junior Jessica Lewis didn't need motivation yesterday against rival City. But with her team clinging to a one-goal advantage late in the game, she received an extra dose.
"When we got on the circle a City player said, 'It's just Poly,' " Lewis said. "I said we need two more goals and we can win this, and the girl said that none of us can get the two goals."
The Engineers got three consecutive scores, the final two coming from Lewis, to silence the Knights, 12-9, and clinch the Baltimore City championship. Senior attack April Ruffin scored three goals to lead Poly (7-3, 5-0 league), with Lewis, Val Koliofotis and Samatha Fischbeck each contributing two.
"We proved it to ourselves and to the city that we are the best," Ruffin said.
A victory by City (3-4, 3-2), last year's league champion, would have made Tuesday's regular-season finale at Poly the deciding game for the championship. Instead, the Poly seniors finally got their first victory against the Knights.
After going 2-9 last year, the Engineers have turned around under first-year coach Josh Headley, the team's third coach in four seasons. Headley thought playing .500 was a realistic goal, but Poly has more than exceeded his expectations.
The Engineers have been tough against city opponents, allowing only 19 goals in four games heading into yesterday's crucial game. Ruffin scored twice to give them a 4-3 lead at halftime, and her goal with 19:49 left extended the margin to 6-3. But Poly's attack appeared to be in distress when Ruffin received a red card for rough play 5 1/2 minutes later, prompting her ejection.
City closed the gap to 8-7 with 8:14 left with an unassisted goal from Danyelle Brown. But Junior goalie Christine Campbell maintained Poly's advantage, denying Tiffany Wright close in with under seven minutes left.
Laura Baron started the Engineers' late surge with an assist from Vasiliki Koliofotis; then Lewis, a defenseman, gave them some extra breathing space with unassisted goals within a 16-second span for a four-goal lead with 4:31 remaining. Baron, one of six seniors on the roster, said Poly has responded to Headley.
"I was sort of like another coach, another year, another 2-9 season," Baron said. "He has brought to us a new way to look at the game, a new way to look at losing along with winning. It's a lot of fun for us now."
Brown played goalie in the first half, stopping 11 attempts; then she carried the Knights in the second with five goals.
"They have a big team, which helps a lot in our league," said City's first-year coach, Kristin Hagerty. "They played a lot harder, going for the ground balls and getting the draws. That made the difference."