Lions Blanked In First State Final
Liberty scores single goal in each half, ends championship drought dating back to 1982
Liberty 2 — Queen Anne’s 0
CHESTERTOWN — It’s been a long time since Liberty hoisted a state championship trophy in field hockey. It’s been never since Queen Anne’s played in a state final.
Those facts both changed Saturday afternoon at Washington College.
Liberty High’s Brooke Heffler scored two minutes into the Class 1A state championship game and Hannah Miller added a goal in the second half, as the Lions of Liberty defeated the Lions of Queen Anne’s, 2-0.
Liberty, which last won a state championship in 1982, finished the season on an eight-game winning streak and secured its eighth shutout. Head coach Brenda Strohmer saw her team cap its championship season with a 17-2 record.
“Our stick-to-stick passing is good. We look up a lot to see the open player,” Strohmer said. “Both of our goals were scored on, you know, boom-boom in.”
After Liberty’s early goal, both teams raced up and down the fast artificial turf on Kibler Field and both teams produced scoring opportunities but no further goals in the first half. Queen Anne’s controlled play throughout the second half but still couldn’t get the ball past Liberty’s sophomore goalie Grace Fenner, who made 10 saves.
Queen Anne’s finished with 12 penalty-corner opportunities compared to five for Liberty. Queen Anne’s junior goalie Emily Lanehart stopped four shots.
Queen Anne’s, which had won 11 straight games, finished the school’s best season in field hockey with a school-record 14-2-1 mark.
Liberty’s Ashley Caldwell pushed the ball up the right wing and crossed the ball in front of the goal area where Heffler redirected it with a rolling shot into the left side of the cage, 1 minute and 59 seconds into the game.
“I said if we score first that’s good, but don’t be surprised if they score first because we know they’re a tough team,” Strohmer said. “... We came back and scored in that first minute, then they kind of settled, then we got a little rattled. But then they settled again and it’s just important to play our game and play smart.”
Liberty almost scored again less than two minutes later when Branin Ward slammed a shot on goal after a corner-play pass, but Lanehart made the save, and Queen Anne’s bounced back up the field to produce a penalty corner of its own. Liberty defended the play, though, and that’s the way it went the rest of the half with back-andforth scoreless action.
“They had a breakaway goal. The defense just didn’t step to the ball I thought,” Queen Anne’s first-year head coach Shana Corder said. “But it was OK. I mean those goals
happen. I still felt … that we were applying good pressure, but we just still couldn’t put it in.”
Queen Anne’s best chance in the first half came with 4:37 remaining when junior midfielder Gabrielle Corder dribbled toward the cage and sent the ball to junior forward and leading scorer Sara Walford in front of the left post, but her shot sailed wide right.
Corder split a pair of defenders on a penalty-corner opportunity in the final seconds of the first half, but she lost her advantage when Liberty was whistled for a violation.
Caldwell received two cards in the second half, leaving Liberty without one of its top offensive players (18 assists on the season) for four minutes. But its defense, led by juniors Fallon Spittel and Erin Risch and freshman Christine Goetz, kept Liberty from needing to score.
“Definitely dominated the second half for sure,” Coach Corder said. “We had plenty of opportunity; we just couldn’t put it in. Their goalie was great. Their defense was great. They’re a good team.”
Despite Queen Anne’s controlling most of the second half, Liberty added an insurance goal with 12:57 remaining in the game. After collecting a pass from Heffler, Miller spun and fired in a shot from about six yards out that clanked off the back of the cage.
“We let Queen Anne’s rattle us a little bit; they’re a great team,” Strohmer said. “They have hard hits. They have great players. I felt like when there was a change, like when Abby [Busch] got hit or Ashley came out, they got rattled, and Queen Anne’s was taking advantage of that. That’s why I called the timeout and told them it was important to get composed.”
Fenner remained composed throughout, adding back-to-back saves near the right post in the final minute.
“They’re a good team,” Coach Corder said. “It stinks to lose, but hey, at the end of the day I’m so proud of the girls. We’ve had such a great season and that’s my message to them. I know they’re all heartbroken right now, but when that heals and they look back on it they’re going to be very proud of themselves.”
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Queen Anne’s McKenna Blick takes aim for a drive during the first half Saturday morning against Liberty in the MPSSAA Class 1A state championship game. Also pictured is Liberty’s Brooker Heffler (11).
Queen Anne’s Conner Allen (16) moves the ball upfield during the MPSSAA Class 1A state championship game Saturday morning at Washington College.