There was a time this season when playing for a state title seemed like a distant dream for the Loch Ravens girls lacrosse team. After opening the season with six straight losses, the Raiders simply wanted to win a game.
“We started off really rough,” junior Tatum Joyce said. “Then we had one game where we said, `Ok, that’s enough.’ Everyone was playing really selfish. We had to start coming together more.”
With a 16-5 win over McDonough of Charles County in Saturday’s Class 1A state semifinals at Northeast High School, Loch Raven showed just how far it has come. Joyce finished with five goals and two assists and freshman teammate Emily Ryan added four goals and three assists, as the Raiders dominated from start to finish to earn a shot at their first state title since 1995.
“Even though our record wasn’t all that in the regular season. … I always tell the ladies – that was season one, and now we’re in season two,” Raiders coach Rob Persing said. “Our goal is five games and get the title. We’re four down, one to go.”
Loch Raven (6-10) advances to play Patterson Mill, an 18-5 winner over Boonsboro in the other semifinal. The game is tentatively scheduled for Tuesday (4 p.m.) at Paint Branch High School in Burtonsville.
The win was especially gratifying, considering how the Raiders exited last year’s tournament. A year ago, they pushed Boonsboro to the limit before falling, 10-9, when a shot that would’ve forced overtime bounced off the crossbar with a second left.
“They came out really fired up today after last year’s loss,” Persing said. “They got the job done today.”
“We knew that last year we lost in the semis by one, and that was kind of hard,” Joyce said. “So we realized we had to come out more as a first-half team. … start off strong and finish stronger.”
The Baltimore County squad did just that, building an early 3-1 lead on free positions by Joyce and Julie Rose (2 goals, 2 assists). Afer a goal by Rams midfielder Iris Golden, the Raiders took command by scoring five of the next six.
With Rose dominating draw controls, the Raiders continued to build their lead throughout the second half, time and again shredding McDonough’s defense for easy chances.
After averaging nearly 16 goals a game this season, the Rams (10-6) never managed to score two in a row against the Raiders.
Despite winning just two regular-season games, players said that tough matchups against Baltimore County powers such as Hereford, Dulaney and Catonsville now are paying dividends.
“I think going out and playing those really tough teams really opens your eyes,” Ryan said. “It definitely helps boost our confidence, especially when it comes to playoffs and we’re playing teams that are on our level.”
“Obviously it’s not fun playing those big-name schools, but I think it makes us better,” Joyce said.
Now the task turns to Patterson Mill, which edged Loch Raven, 16-15, when the teams met in April.
“I think it’s really going to come down to the simple things like 50-50 balls and draws,” Ryan said. “It’s going to be a really good game, and I think we have a chance to come out on top and win states.”
“Right now they are really gelling together,” Persing said, “and it’s looking pretty nice.”
Class 1A state semifinal
Loch Raven 16, McDonough 5
Goals: LR-Joyce 5, Ryan 4, Rose 2, Caldwell 2, Henning, Nowowieski, Carnes; M-Kidwell, Sheckells, Edwards, Golden. Assists: LR-Ryan 3, Joyce 2, Rose 2, Nowowieski, Maxwell. Saves: LR-Levy 10; M-Barbour 11. Half: Loch Raven, 9-4.