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No. 11 Westminster beats No. 5 Atholton, 2-0, in field hockey

Westminster's Tori McDonald, Sophia DeFeo, Hailey Poisal and Readie Russell celebrate at the end of the Owls' 2-0 win over Atholton in Westminster
Westminster's Tori McDonald, Sophia DeFeo, Hailey Poisal and Readie Russell celebrate at the end of the Owls' 2-0 win over Atholton in Westminster (Dylan Slagle, BSMG)

Westminster field hockey coach Mary Rivera doesn't like to use her timeouts early in games, particularly when her team isn't losing.

Even after No. 5 Atholton began Monday's Class 3A East Section II final by dominating time of possession and getting several scoring chances, Rivera let her team keep playing.

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And the No. 11 Owls soon received a chance to regroup when Raiders coach Martie Dyer took a timeout with just more than eight minutes to go in the first half.

It was a move that benefited Westminster as Owls forward Emily Bennett scored a goal shortly after play resumed. With the lead, Westminster's defense maintained its strong play and the Owls earned a berth in the regional final with a 2-0 win over visiting Atholton.

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"We weren't losing, so I wasn't really too worried, but my defense was holding their own," Rivera said. "You win with defense, you definitely do."

Bennett put Westminster ahead off an assist from Mia Moshang close to the front of the box with 7:48 to go in the half, coming off of a penalty corner. Then, the Owls defense went back to shutting down the Raiders, who continually had chances off of penalty corners and fast breaks.

But Atholton, which scored more than 100 goals this season, never found the back of the cage against Westminster. Owls goalie Hailey Poisal led the way with 13 saves.

"There was a lot of close chances, don't get me wrong, but Hailey stepped up," Rivera said.

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Facing a high-scoring opponent, Rivera said she wanted to see her team add another goal to its lead. Sophia DeFeo scored for the Owls with 15:04 to go in the second half.

Westminster's Tori McDonald was on the left side of the circle and found an open DeFeo just in front of the box. DeFeo, the Owls' leading scorer, hit it past Raiders goalie Emily Clinch for a 2-0 lead.

"It picked our spirits up. Atholton was coming back there for a minute, they had so many corners and so many opportunities," DeFeo said. "That really just made us even more fired up and wanting to get ready and go and score."

The Raiders had even more opportunities after falling behind by two goals, including 11 penalty corners in the final 20 minutes. But each time, either Atholton's shot would go wide, Poisal would make a save, or the Raiders would fail to get a shot off.

It was that defensive play that had DeFeo and her fellow Westminster attackers relaxed even when Atholton seemed to be in control early. The Owls have yet to allow a goal this postseason after beating Reservoir, 5-0, in the sectional semifinals.

"You know that they're a great defense, so we know that they're going to stop it," DeFeo said. "It gets us pumped because it gets us to get the ball down the field, and we feel confident."

Westminster advances to the regional finals to host Chesapeake-Anne Arundel, looking to win its third regional title in five years.

"We are planning to play the next three games, advancing to state finals," DeFeo said. "I think we can definitely do that. We have the athleticism and the skills that we can do that."

The Raiders' season comes to an end after winning a share of the Howard County championship. They beat Mount Hebron in the section semifinals, but struggled with the shift from a turf field to grass in Westminster.

"The ball just doesn't bounce the same," Dyer said. "We had a great season, and I don't think the better team won today. We dominated, we just couldn't get the ball in the goal."

Goals: W-Emily Bennett, Sophia DeFeo.

Assists: W-Mia Moshang, Tori McDonald.

Saves: A-3 (Emily Clinch); W-13 (Hailey Poisal).

Halftime: Westminster, 1-0.

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