Golden Elks prepared for postseason challenge
Just nine days after it closed out its best regular season in more than a decade, the Elkton field hockey team is gearing up for its next challenge: continuing its success in the playoffs.
The Golden Elks (11-1) rattled off 10 wins in a row to begin the season, finished undefeated in Susquehanna Division competition and swept their Cecil County opponents en route to a top seed in the 2A North Region Section II playoffs. They will host Rising Sun (2-9-1) on Thursday in the section semifinals as they aim for their first state tournament appearance since 2005.
“It’s incredible. It all starts with practice with us and whenever we start to feel like we’re not playing as well as we were in the beginning, we kind of go back to the fundamentals and we go back to the original drills that we first started doing, and that seemed to have helped throughout the season,” Elkton first-year coach Renee Dunn said. “The girls just give 100 percent in anything they do. They work so hard that it’s entirely all them.”
Elkton faced the Tigers earlier in the season, topping its Cecil County rival 5-2 in non-conference action on Sept. 13. Thursday will be battle between the two Susquehanna Division champions of the past two years.
“We expect them to be extremely tough. We expect them to not be an easy game whatsoever and we’re preparing and working on our fundamentals and hopefully we can pull it out,” Dunn said of playing Rising Sun. “We tell our girls every practice that records don’t mean anything in playoffs. You can have an undefeated record and a team that hasn’t won any games can throw you off. Whoever plays the better playoff game is the one who wins.”
One week after their regularseason loss to Elkton, the Tigers opened play against the Chesapeake Division. While they finished without a win in the upper division, their coach believes the difficult schedule has prepared them for the postseason.
“I think that being in the upper division and playing bigger schools and very talented teams has definitely made us better. We’ve seen a lot of good things and we’ve had to elevate our game,” Rising Sun coach Katie Keyes said. “It’s always fun to play Elkton because they’re a healthy competition that’s been there since I’ve been in high school. I think the mental [side] of the game is going to be key for us. Just coming in and knowing we can play a good game. We haven’t won a lot of games but we fared well against a lot of the teams in the upper division.”
The winner will advance to face the winner of North Harford (6-6) and 14-time state champion Fallston (9-3).
“It’s going to be tough. The road to playoffs, itself, is not an easy one and we are fully expecting to have to fight hard every single game,” Dunn said. “It’s definitely going to be challenging but we can just work as hard as we can now, we’ll adjust as need be and we’ll take it one game a time.”
Trio of county teams face familiar path to 1A North Region Final
For three local field hockey squads, the road through Section I of the 1A North Region is a familiar one.
Bohemia Manor will once again host the winner of Perryville and North East for the right to advance to the region final, one year after the trio competed in the very same bracket.
For both the top-seeded Eagles and Indians, there is unfinished business to take care of after the rival Panthers took down both teams last autumn.
“We’re definitely not ready for our season to be over,” said Bo Manor coach Ashley Christy, whose team fell to Perryville 2-0, but topped North East 2-0. “Of the teams that are in our bracket … there is definitely a comfort level. We know what players to look out for, who scored on you the first time and the things that you did against them.”
If the rematch against Perryville does occur, the Eagles (4-7-1) intend to be ready.
“That’s our goal. We played Perryville the very first game of the season so getting to see them again, that would be good,” Christy said. “I would look forward to that.”
The Panthers would like nothing more than a third-straight trip to the region final. After falling to Fallston in 2014, they suffered a heartbreaking 1-0 overtime loss to Patterson Mill last year.
“I don’t know if we’re comparing the two seasons that much because the teams are made up so differently,” first-year Perryville coach Erin Hamson said of last year’s squad compared to this year’s. “The chemistry of the team is different, the make-up of the roster is different. Not even every girl has the same emotional connection as it would be if we had the same girls on this team as we did last year. That being said, they’re definitely ready and excited to put their uniforms and go run on that field on Thursday and make it happen.”
Perryville (3-7-1) will host North East (2-10) on Thursday at Calvert Regional Park in a rematch from Sept. 15, when Perryville won 8-0. Both teams were present during the Cecil County Invitational at University of Delaware this month, although they played different teams.
“When we were at [Delaware], they were the game right before us and they played phenomenally. They are not the same team that we played earlier in the season,” Hamson said of North East. “That being said, we have also improved, so I would like to say that we can walk on the field very confident. I will also say that we can not and will not underestimate either of the teams within the county that we’re slated to play for the next two rounds.”
North East coach Kendie Hudson also noted the improvement she’s seen in her team despite the lessthan-impressive record.
“With each game we really grew as a team. We were losing 2-0 or 1-0 or 2-1 and games were really close. We were just waiting for that touch or that last finish with the goal. At this point, the team is where it needs to be. They’re putting it together, they’re communicating on the field and I think going into this playoff game we have a really good chance,” Hudson said. “If you look back at our last game when we played Perryville, we were a completely different team. I look for a much closer game with us coming out on top.”
Across the bracket, second-seeded Patterson Mill (5-7) will host Joppatowne (3-9) on Thursday, with the winner facing the winner of host Harford Tech (6-6) and Havre de Grace (0-12). Follow Jordan Schatz on Twitter: @Jordan_Whig
Perryville’s Dominic Muscella dribbles the ball during his team’s 2-0 win over visiting Tome in non-conference boys’ soccer action on Monday.
Elkton will host Rising Sun on Thursday in the 2A North Region Section II semifinals. The Elks topped the Tigers 5-2 during the regular season.