Walford boosts Lions past KC, into region title tilt
QA’s 3 — Kent County 2
CENTREVILLE — Facing what appeared to be another overtime game Monday afternoon, Sara Walford got everyone home before the trick-or-treaters arrived.
Walford slammed in a rebound with 34 seconds remaining in regulation play as Queen Anne’s County High’s field hockey team earned a 3-2 victory over Kent County to advance to the Class 1A East Region title game against Pocomoke.
The Lions, who nipped Kent County on penalty strokes to end the regular season, controlled the action in their Section II final, but the Trojans made the most of their scoring opportunities.
Taylor Johnson rolled in a shot on a fast break to tie the game, 2-2, with just 2:22 remaining in regulation.
The Lions (12-1-1) didn’t panic, though, and controlled play again with time winding down. Mckenna Blick drove a hard shot from near the top of the circle that was blocked by Trojans goalie Mackenzie Peacock, but Walford was positioned perfectly and swatted in the rebound.
“We had all heart and we wanted it really bad,” Walford said. “But Kent did too. We both really wanted it. We knew it was going to be a tough game, but we just happened to give it our all with the last seconds left.”
Kent County (10-4) managed one more shot in the final seconds, but it rolled wide right and time ran out.
“I knew they were going to give us a battle going into it,” Lions head coach Shana Corder said. “But hey, it’s playoffs, and that’s what’s expected.”
Gabrielle Corder opened the game’s scoring with 9 minutes left in the first half. Off a penalty-corner pass, she dribbled ahead a few yards and stroked a roller that ricochetted high off the ground and bounced off the crossbar before rolling into the back of the cage for a 1-0 lead, which was where the game stood at the half.
With 11 minutes remaining in the second half, the Trojans tied it up. Abby Crockett sent a penalty-corner pass into the goal area and, after a flurry of action in front of Lions goalie Emily Lanehart, the ball was knocked into the cage by Ally Hickman.
With the Trojans looking for comeback victory, Queen Anne’s countered just over a minute later. Gabrielle Corder sent a pass into the goal area from the left wing and the ball may have gotten a boost by teammate Mackenzie Mandes before Walford knocked it into the left side of the cage for a 2-1 lead with 9:55 to play.
Queen Anne’s continued to apply pressure in an attempt to gain some distance, but Peacock made a save on another shot by Walford and a shot by Blick rolled wide. A shot by Kaitlyn Karns also bounced wide and another one of her shots was turned away by Peacock. Kent County defenders thwarted two corner-play opportunities and Peacock stopped a shot by Kelsey Graef before the Trojans pieced together their fast break that led to Johnson’s tying goal.
For the game, the Lions swatted 35 shots compared to eight for the Trojans. Queen Anne’s created 11 penalty-corner opportunities compared to two for Kent County.
Peacock finished with 12 saves. Lanehart had three saves, including an aggressive block to stop a Trojans’ break just prior to their first goal.
“This group that we have, they’re just so relentless,” Coach Corder said. “In years past we’ve had great teams, but this team just doesn’t give up. They’ve been down before and they just fight back. That was my message to them after they tied it back up again and I called a timeout. I was like, ‘No hurt, you guys just got to ride it, get your goal back and those kids do it.
“We have set plays and set plans for what’s going on and they were a little nervous, and I could see their nerves, but I could also see the nerves in Kent too. But in the end of the day we just came out on top and I’m super proud of them.”
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Queen Anne’s Olivia Lewis, right, and Kent County’s Caroline McLeod battle for possession of the ball Monday afternoon at Queen Anne’s County High School.