No three-peat: Cougars fall in 3A state fi­nal

The Capital - - SPORTS - C.M. WRIGHT 3, CH­E­SA­PEAKE 0 By Kather­ine Fominykh kfominykh@capgaznews.com there.

CH­ESTER­TOWN — Be­fore Ch­e­sa­peake ran across the field to­gether for the last time as a team, coach Joan John­son wanted them to keep their chins held high, to carry grace and poise in their step on the turf — even if the sky had just fallen on them.

The Cougars (12-7) have earned a rep­u­ta­tion this sea­son as the “sec­ond-half team,” ral­ly­ing for vic­to­ries in key games from reg­u­lar sea­son to re­gion­als. But on Satur­day, an­other one wasn’t in the cards, and with it, the pos­si­bil­ity of a third straight Class 3A state ti­tle was gone and in the hands of C. Mil­ton Wright, which de­feated Ch­e­sa­peake, 3-0, for the cham­pi­onship.

“They were the bet­ter team to­day. We seemed to not be able to play our game to­day,” John­son said.

“They came out strong and they came out ready to play,” Mus­tangs coach Kelly Mattingly said. “They’ve been want­ing this for a long time now.”

But as John­son cir­cled up with her small squad, she told them they’d climbed so many im­pos­si­ble moun­tains al­ready. This was just one they couldn’t muster.

“Some­body asked me the other day, ‘How are you 12-6 and in the state cham­pi­onship?’ I said that I’ve lost a lot of games by one goal,” John­son said. “We have worked re­ally hard through the sea­son. My pro­gram has a to­tal of 29 girls. That’s it, for JV and var­sity. So we had to dig a lit­tle deeper. From be­gin­ning to end, you can’t make it to the state cham­pi­onship with­out a tal­ented team.”

For­wards Saman­tha Al­jet and Ar­ri­anna May notched the three goals for the Mus­tangs (16-1).

“They changed the mo­men­tum of the game and we kept the mo­men­tum,” Mattingly said.

From the start, the Cougars found less play­ing ter­ri­tory than they’d like. Aided by a blus­ter­ing wind blow­ing in their foes’ di­rec­tion, C. Mil­ton Wright suc­cess­fully penned Ch­e­sa­peake on its own side of the field as the Mus­tangs pressed the cir­cle tighter and tighter.

Keeper Eve Vick­ery (four saves) stopped the first Mus­tang shots on goal, but the black-clad at­tack­ers kept at it. It wouldn’t be long be­fore they pecked through.

With less than three min­utes down, Al­jets plucked a mo­men­tar­ily loose ball and fired the first C. Mil­ton Wright goal.

Then, four min­utes later, Al­jets scooped up a loose ball and cut to May. The for­ward made the shot, hit­ting the back of the cage.

Down by two, se­nior Ma­son Frech­tel and sopho­more Ge­or­gia Span­gler nearly flicked in their own goal, but the ball took a sharp bounce out just inches from the cage.

“It got in our heads a lit­tle bit. We let them get too far of a lead,” se­nior Rachel Fleig said. “We were there, but we weren’t

Our men­tal game was rushed, we weren’t fo­cused. It was a whole mess.”

Two goals to none was the very lead Ch­e­sa­peake had cruised on to the ti­tle last year. But the Cougars were un­de­terred by this year’s ob­sta­cle — these were the “come­back kids,” af­ter all.

And that’s ex­actly what John­son told them as they hud­dled by their benches at half­time.

“That they were the sec­ond-half team. That this was their game,” she said. “We needed to mark up a lit­tle bit bet­ter, play bet­ter man to man. We did do that for a good long while, and they got a break­away.”

In the sec­ond half, even with the gusts on its side, C. M. Wright con­tin­ued to strip the Cougars in the field and break off for its own scor­ing at­tempts. But they wouldn’t — as the Mus­tangs scored three-straight cor­ners, the Ch­e­sa­peake de­fense, led by Han­nah McK­eon, bat­ted the ball out of dan­ger.

Cor­ners were of­ten the de­cid­ing fac­tor in the Cougars’ games this sea­son, usu­ally in their fa­vor. They’d trained hard on them in the rain on Fri­day, as they had for days. It was their “bread and but­ter,” in John­son’s words.

But the Cougars had mul­ti­ple cor­ners awarded of their own in the sec­ond half, they just couldn’t cap­i­tal­ize.

Fleig, who’d ush­ered at­tacks on the Mus­tangs’ goal mul­ti­ple times, launched a shot too short for fruition. Then, McK­eon swept the ball back on goal, but her own at­tempt was tripped up by feet, end­ing any hope of mak­ing its way into the net.

“We tried to push up, give a lit­tle more pres­sure, be­cause they had every­body back in the cir­cle ev­ery time,” John­son said. “We kept try­ing to push up fur­ther and fur­ther. Just couldn’t pro­duce one.”

With the loss, Ch­e­sa­peake’s three-year un­beaten post­sea­son run hit the end of the road. The Cougars lose five se­niors to grad­u­a­tion, in­clud­ing Fleig, who scored a record-break­ing 70 goals and 50 as­sists with Ch­e­sa­peake at the start of the play­offs and is bound for Ap­palachian State.

“The game didn’t go as planned, but I wouldn’t want to fin­ish the sea­son with any other team,” she said. “Win­ning or any­thing, I’d only want to play with this team for four years.”

BRIAN KRISTA/CAP­I­TAL GAZETTE

Ch­e­sa­peake's Alyssa Krueger, left, and C. Mil­ton Wright's An­nie Keele bat­tle for con­trol of the ball in the Class 3A field hockey state cham­pi­onship game at Wash­ing­ton Col­lege on Satur­day.

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