It had seemed like no team was a match for the power of Chesapeake’s comebacks.
It took the last game of the season just to find one who could.
Broadneck (10-2-2) punched its ticket to the county championship game against South River after curtailing the Cougars, winning 3-2 on a last-minute goal by midfielder Haley Palmer and Sammy Dupcak.
“They have earned that spot in the county championship,” Broadneck coach Jen Plack said, “but we just wanted to come out here tonight to play a great game against a great Chesapeake team. And I think we did.”
Dupcak, who led the Bruins in scoring with a goal as well in the first half, knew Chesapeake would be a tough battle — but that was the fun of it.
“It’s fun to play in a competitive game like that, and it was just a total team effort,” she said. “We’re really proud to go into playoffs with a good win.”
Broadneck struck first on the quick stick work of Anna Feick, who heavily pressured keeper Eve Vickery (four saves) in the first minute. As the senior tried to break through Chesapeake’s defenses, the Cougars swarmed her — and gave her a corner.
When the ball loosed, it landed before Dupcak, who quickly netted it to give the Bruins the upper hand with just two minutes gone.
Then, just eight minutes later, after Chesapeake had tried to ferry the ball down-field, Bruins forward Kaala Puglisi needled the ball around the pack of Cougars defenders. Just as Chesapeake was about to pick her off, she dished to senior Emily Eckels.
Eckels fired and heard the satisfying thud. Broadneck had doubled its lead, 2-0, not even a third of the way into the half.
But, of course, Chesapeake wasn’t a contender for county championships without a reason. The Cougars pounded the Bruins cage with attempts before earning a corner.
Senior Hannah McKeon rushed the circle, her first shot fended off by keeper Alex Clough. McKeon regrouped, swung her stick back — and scored.
“On defensive corners, she flies, picks up the ball,” Chesapeake coach Joan Johnson said. “She is just a really talented player, really proud of her.”
The Cougars weren’t finished. After Vickery bodied a shot on goal from Broadneck for the save, Chesapeake junior Madison Hoyer tried to pot the equalizer, but missed goal. Then, a flock of forwards landed on the Broadneck backfield, leading to Georgia Spangler scoring the second Cougars goal with just 35 seconds to go with McKeon on the assist.
Broadneck’s blowout hopes were dashed — the two headed into halftime tied at 2.
“Well, we'd love to be the one that scores first but it does seem to be our M.O.,” Johnson said. “We’ll keep working on it.”
Play zigzagged from end to end as neither camp was able to score for a majority of the second half.
The Bruins strained Chesapeake’s defenses from the jump, earning two corners, though both fizzled. Though Broadneck managed to corral the ball in the hosts’ end for nine minutes, Chesapeake managed to ship it downfield eventually, then doing some monopolizing themselves.
“We let them dictate a lot of the play near the end of the first half and even in the beginning of the second half a little bit,” Plack said, “but we just told our girls to dig deep and give all out effort, and I think they did that.”
Fleig swung two shots at new Bruins keeper, Cecelia Gazelle (six saves), which hit her like a wall. Even as the Chesapeake offense peppered more attempts, the Broadneck defense held their ground, finally able to move the ball back out of danger.
“Our defenders, specifically Sophia [Hartman] and Olivia [Abe], played amazing,” Plack said. “Cecelia … I thought she played lights-out.”
After a corner was awarded to Chesapeake with 6:30 left, the Cougars nailed the post with a shot so convincing, the Chesapeake crowd screamed in celebration — but it wasn’t a goal.
So the Cougars just had to draw two more, the first leading to the second, and the second hitting the back of the net — but after the whistle had been blown.
The Bruins tried to pick up where their hosts left off, then, pulling a corner of their own with just over three minutes to go.
“We just got back to how we started the game,” Dupcak said. “Calmed ourselves down. Focused and connected our passes to put pressure on.”
At the whistle, Broadneck ferried the ball around Chesapeake to Dupcak. She found Palmer, who planted the game-winner.
“Oh my God, Sammy Dupcak,” Plack said. “If we had a player of the game, it’d be Sammy. She was just everywhere for us. She’s just humble and hardworking and I can’t say enough about her. I’m just glad she’s on our team.”
With a lead, three minutes left became three minutes to burn. Broadneck played keep-away, cutting any Chesapeake attempt to run away with the ball short.
“When we got that third ball in the cage, we just said go out there, play together, hold on defense,” Plack said.
Though county championships were the short-term prize of Monday’s contest, the true value, to both Broadneck and Chesapeake, was how well it prepared them for playoffs at the end of October.
“We have a lot of things to work on between now and [playoffs],” Johnson said. “But we had one of the toughest schedules in the county. And we take losses to Delmar, and we take losses to NDP, and we take a loss to Broadneck and we use them because we go to 3A for playoffs.”
Plack’s focus is a little more immediate.
“We know South River brings their A game — I’m sure they’ve improved since we’ve seen them and I know we’ve improved,” she said. “We’re excited.”