A year off its state-best 25th Class 4A title, Severna Park field hockey chose to walk through fire when it scheduled three tough teams from Delaware to fill the first few games of the season. Out of those defeats, the Falcons — a very young squad — have emerged battle tested.
After blanking South River, 3-0, on Thursday for their third shutout in a row and fourth overall, coach Shannon Garden can truly see how quickly confidence is building in her Falcons (5-2).
All three of Severna Park’s goals came off corners, of which Severna Park had 16. And while 3 of 16 isn’t the highest percentage in the world, Garden was impressed to see her team pounce on chances.
“Corners are not easy to score on at this level, all the pieces have to come exactly correctly for it to work, but three is pretty good for us,” Garden said. “We’ve been working really hard on corners and opportunities to score.”
The Falcons have always been known for a strong defense. But when a generational defender like Zoe Day graduated, Garden placed Ava Drexler-Amey in the backfield to shore it up. The catch was Drexler-Amey was the Falcons’ top scorer last season with 18 points.
“After the first couple games, I really needed to flip the script and work hard on our offense and spread our talent,” Garden said. “That means we tried to develop our talent up front, take more risks and create more opportunities for themselves.”
And that goal, the coach said, is only now being realized as the younger and less experienced forwards adjust to the pace of play.
Neither offense had much success early, despite the Falcons lining up for a host of corners.
“When we have a team as skilled as ours, it’s not a skill thing when we’re making mistakes, it’s a need-to-relax thing,” junior Alyssa Gore-Chung said. “We just needed to get in a rhythm, and then we scored a goal.”
As the old adage goes, third time was actually the charm.
Though the insert didn’t find its place in the net, Severna Park forwards furiously poked and prodded at the ball. When sophomore midfielder Ava Zimmerman found a small opening, she fired for the first Falcons goal, her first at the varsity level.
Once the tension broke, the Falcons offense could exhale. Within a minute, on another corner attempt, Gore-Chung buried her shot for a 2-0 lead.
Garden knew what she was getting in one of the county’s most prolific lacrosse players, who missed the 2021 field hockey slate with an ACL injury: a pure athlete.
Her mild, joyful demeanor on the sidelines transforms quickly into spitfire the moment she touches the field. Her teammates describe her as, “Human sunshine off the field, human tornado on the field.”
“She’s a machine with no off button,” Garden said. “With her, it is ‘go’ all the time. And she’s creating opportunities for other kids to come in and deposit it.”
The Falcons strengthened their monopoly in the second quarter, practically slicing the field in half as the offense hardly ever let the ball leave its sight. Gore-Chung credited ball movement and communication, as well as positive energy.
“When we turned the ball over, we didn’t put our heads down,” Gore-Chung said. “We thought, ‘Next ball,’ clapped our hands and went on with the next play.”
Sixteen corners also help.
On the eighth Severna Park corner (of 11 in the first half), Meredith Schepens fed a pass to sophomore forward Kelsey Rowe, who rushed the goal, clipping the ball and arcing it over the shoulders of the Seahawks, pushing the Falcon lead to 3-0 at the half.
“They’re starting to relax and have more fun now,” Garden said. “They don’t feel like they have to prove themselves anymore.”