An early goal and an aggressive competitor had Westminster’s field hockey players catching their breath after the first 30 minutes of Thursday’s game against South Carroll.
The Cavaliers had the lead, and the momentum, thanks to a feisty first half. The Owls’ team leaders met with their coaches to talk things over.
“We just talked about playing our game, not being in our mind but playing with our heart,” said midfielder Gabby Clancy, one of the team’s seven seniors. “We really just [had] to go back to the fundamentals.”
That meant playing with more emotion, finding each other with crisper passes, being first to a loose ball, and recognizing the county championship was at stake. Westminster tied the score with an early-second half goal, and Clancy ended it with a game-clincher in overtime.
Clancy’s redirect of a pass from Haleigh Moore lifted the Owls past the Cavaliers 2-1, giving them their second county title in as many seasons.
Westminster (9-3, 6-0 county) totaled 13 penalty-corner attempts to SC’s five, and applied the pressure after its halftime discussion. The Cavaliers (10-3, 4-2) didn’t get much of a chance in overtime to mount an offensive surge.
The Owls struck with 5:10 remaining when Moore sent the ball into the circle from the far side, and Clancy, knowing she had to charge toward the cage, got her stick on enough of the ball to slip it past Cavaliers goalie Corinne Kearney (11 saves).
“I was really stressed … I wanted to get that shot off,” Moore said. ”I’m honestly just really glad that I was able to rely on Gabby to be at post and to dump it in past their goalie. It was amazing.”
Added Clancy: “I just focused on getting my stick down and stopping the ball before getting it in, because swinging at it is not going to get anywhere.”
Moore fed forward Madi Macera for Westminster’s first goal, less than three minutes into the second half, and the Owls drew even with South Carroll. The Cavs had a 1-0 lead thanks to Abbey Behn’s chip shot that went up and over goalie Lauren Jenne’s head and into the cage with 24:45 to play in the first half.
The score buoyed the home team on its Senior Day, but the Cavs were crestfallen afterward. They were in search of their first county title since 2004. Beating Westminster would have created a three-way tie between those two and Liberty.
“It was great hockey,” SC coach Julie Radnoff said. “Who can complain about watching a great hockey game? There [were] two teams that worked as hard as they possibly could trying to score, and someone’s got to win in the end so it goes to overtime. I couldn’t be prouder.”
Both Radnoff and Owls coach Katie McDonald talked about using this game as preparation for the upcoming regional players. Both county squads have state tournament aspirations — the Cavs are looking for their first trip since 2004; the Owls have been regional champions 26 times.
“Our focus is definitely to continue through the postseason and make it to states,” McDonald said. “During our halftime talk we said, ‘This is it, we want to be county champs. We want to win this.’”
Goals: W-Madi Macera, Gabby Clancy; SC-Abbey Behn.
Assists: W-Haleigh Moore 2; SC-Madi Radnoff.
Saves: W-2 (Lauren Jenne); SC-11 (Corinne Kearney).
Halftime: SC, 1-0.