The Arundel field hockey team couldn’t have had high hopes after starting this season with six straight losses.
On Saturday, the Wildcats showed that it’s not so much the beginning, but the end that really counts.
Unranked Arundel got a pair of goals from senior Christina Candella, including the go-ahead goal off a corner with 10 seconds left in the third quarter, to ride off from Washington College with a 2-1 win over No. 7 River Hill for its first Class 3A state championship.
For coach Carrie Vosburg, whose team finished the season with seven straight wins by a combined score of 22-3, the key was never giving up hope.
“I think we maybe all questioned what we were doing,” Vosburg joked. “But we did sit down ... we did film review and broke out the bracket. We were like, ‘Listen, we can go 0-12 and we can still do this.’”
“Whenever the coach would say, ‘We’re preparing for states,’ all of us would look at her like she was crazy,” Candella said. “No one thought [we could do this] whatsoever.”
Arundel (11-8) was making its first trip to the finals after previously advancing only as far as the semis in 1983.
This one could’ve gone either way.
The Wildcats controlled play in the early minutes, but it was River Hill (15-4) that took a 1-0 lead 9:34 into the game when senior Laura Mason knocked in a rebound after a save by goalie Savannah Brooks.
The Wildcats tied it with 5:47 left in the half when forward Christina Candella knocked in a feed from midfielder Madison Barber off their second penalty corner in under a minute.
From there, each team had several scoring chances, with a shot by Arundel bounding off the post after a third-quarter corner and Wildcats midfielder Jillian Trout single-handedly thwarting a two-on-one break with the goalie out of the box.
But Arundel regained the lead with just 10 seconds left in the third quarter. Off a corner, Syracuse-bound midfielder Lana Hamilton fed Candella, who fought for control and pushed the ball in from the right side.
Vosburg said a pregame chat with Candella helped set the stage for her performance.
“We did little check-ins with each of them on the bus, and she was just really nervous and kind of in her head,” Vosburg said of the senior, who had entered the game with five goals for the season. “We just really talked her up and said, ‘Listen, you’ve been doing really well, and you can do this tonight.’ And she did just that.”
River Hill, which was in search of its first state title since 2010, has come close to championships in two straight tournaments after falling in the semifinals in 2019.
Vosburg said her team managed to grow during the course of the season, learning from its mistakes.
“Just a lot of hard work,” she said. “I think a lot of them had the skill and talent ... They were just kind of diamonds in the rough and we just had to kind of polish them off. We were patient with them, then they just kind of found their way.”
“Our whole motto this year was ‘Leave your mark,’ and we just wanted to leave it all on the field and go as hard as we could,” Candella said. “None of us wanted to be done at all until we got to the very end.”
Goals: A-Candella 2; RH-Mason Assists: A-Barber, Hamilton Saves: A-Brooks 9; RH-Baker 2. Half: Tied, 1-1.