Queen Anne’s earns first region crown since 2011
QA’s 4 — Pocomoke 0
CENTREVILLE — The Lions ended their Eastern Shore portion of the season much like how they began it: with a convincing victory over the most vaunted and historic high school field hockey program in the area.
Queen Anne’s County High defeated 19-time state champion Pocomoke, 4-0, in the Class 1A East Region final last Wednesday, punching tickets for the program’s second state tournament berth five years to the day from the first, and the contest was never close against a Warriors team that has been shuffling, and re-shuffling, its deck all season.
Sara Walford rode the momentum from her gamewinning goal against Kent County in the section final by posting a hat trick, and Conner Allen also added a goal, while the defense and goalkeeper Emily Lanehart (five saves) expertly crafted a shutout of a squad that had scored 49 goals in nine wins coming in.
“It’s really exciting, and I’m glad I can be part of this team,” Walford said. “I can’t wait go to semis, hopefully win that, move on to states and make history for the school.”
Added Queen Anne’s defender Josie Inzer: “We’ve been working since before the start of the season. We did turf time, we came up together as a team in practice, and we’ve become an actual family. We couldn’t have done this without each other. This isn’t a one-person unit, and it’s paid off.”
The Lions defeated Patterson Mill, 3-0, in Monday’s state semifinal, and will face Liberty tomorrow in the state title tilt. The 2-1 victory over the tough Trojans two days before the region title tilt assured Queen Anne’s was tested before facing Pocomoke.
“I got to thank Kent County, because they set us up and gave us the run for the money on Monday, and it just got our momentum going,” Lions head coach Shana Corder said. “They just came out here and executed every play. The defense really stepped it up. Josie Inzer, the last two games, she’s played the best I’ve ever seen her play, Emily had some great saves. They were just a working unit back there.
“It was by far one of their best games they played all season,” Corder added of her team’s performance against Pocomoke. “Super proud of these kids, and they knew coming in, opening the season against Pocomoke, that it had to come full circle. They’re such a great team, and we’re proud that we beat somebody who is so strong.”
Walford scored the gamewinner late against Kent County, and kept right on rolling against Pocomoke, finding the back of the cage after a corner attempt at the 27-minute, 52-second mark of the first half off an Allen assist.
Walford kickstarted the corner from the left side and rushed in once hitting Allen at the top of the key. Pocomoke goalie Alana Troxell (seven saves) stoned Allen’s initial attempt, but Walford snuck in nearly unmarked and smacked it past for the 1-0 lead.
Less than seven minutes later, it was 2-0, Queen Anne’s, as Walford again scored off a rebound, this time after a Kelsey Graef shot was stopped by Troxell and Walford capitalized on the third attempt following a second shot in a scrum.
Meanwhile, Pocomoke, the defending 1A state champion which has brought home the big hardware an astounding 19 times since 1983 and has made the state tournament 27 times in 33 years, scuffled along on both sides of the ball.
A Warriors corner at the 19-minute mark of the first half ended with Kasey Lee whiffing on Peyton Becker’s entry pass, and 5½ minutes later, another corner attempt went for naught, when Alexis Cullen was denied on backto-back pokes in front of the cage. Pocomoke’s third and last corner of the first half was fumbled right away, and Walford deftly cleared it out of danger.
“Our defense, we have a whole set-up for corners,” Inzer said. “Coach Paul Masucci works so closely with us, and it shows. We all want it so bad, and communication is key. We have to give it to Paul, because he has pushed us to our potential and makes these things happen.”
The Warriors were without Dani Batze, who has already committed to Temple University, since the last scrimmage of the preseason, the talented forward and No. 1 option on offense going down with a torn ACL. It started a domino effect where no less than four Pocomoke players were playing out of position, out of comfort zones, but it didn’t keep the Warriors from winning the South Bayside division and making another run to the region final.
“We overcame a lot of injuries throughout,” Warriors head coach Brandi Castenada said. “and not just Dani, because one player doesn’t make a team. We’ve rebuilt a total of five or six times, just trying to put different people in different places, and we’re young, so that wasn’t advantageous.”
The Lions’ 2-0 lead at halftime was bolstered by the relentless assault against Pocomoke’s beleaguered defense, which yielded 12 shot attempts in the first 30 minutes.
At the 22:04 mark of the second half, the backbreaker arrived in bizarre fashion.
Allen lined up a shot from about 15 yards out and chopped it at Troxell, whose stick save glanced off teammate Natalie Crisafulli’s head and into goal, crediting Allen with the tally.
“After that, I definitely felt like we had it,” Corder said. “I just felt more at ease, and relaxed, and so did the kids.”
“When we got that third goal, I kind of felt like it was the safety goal,” Walford continued. “But I felt like we needed one more to feel even more safe.”
Walford had playfully promised Corder a hat trick before the game began, and Corder laid down the reminder as the game ventured inside the final 10 minutes. With 6:46 remaining, Walford delivered, scoring in traffic off a Graef assist to cap the blowout.
“Five years ago to this day, was the exact day we won our last region, so there were a lot of good signs. The girls were so pumped, but also so settled in school today,” Corder said. “Sara had a hat trick in the opening game against Pocomoke, and going into this game, Sara and I always have our little conversations, and Sara was like, “I’m going to score three for you today’, and I told her, ‘Go do it’. When she scored her second, she later made the eye contact, and I just knew it...” Follow me on Twitter @Ayman_StarDem. Email me at email@example.com