The Kent Island Bay Times - - Sports -

“All the coaches get­ting to­gether, and hav­ing the con­ver­sa­tion, we knew with the tal­ent and ath­leti­cism we had, we knew we were go­ing to have suc­cess,” Holtzner said. “Now, would that suc­cess be to­gether with the team? We didn’t know that, quite frankly. We were mov­ing girls around on the field, and we had a lot of girls who had spe­cific roles on the team: you’re a dodger, you’re a shooter, you’re a feeder, you’re a tran­si­tion player, they bought into the team as­pect.”

Bland­ford and Creighton, both mem­bers of the Mary­land United club team, are also the first pair of team­mates to share the award. The honor was split amongst ri­vals twice be­fore: Kent Is­land’s Jen Cos­grove and Saints Peter and Paul’s Julie Morse in 2008, and Queen Anne’s Mol­lie Stevens and Eas­ton’s Paige Gam­ble in 2012.

“I think it’s so cool, be­cause we’ve been play­ing on the same team since Scoop­ers,” said Creighton, who has al­ready ver­bally com­mit­ted to Elon Univer­sity. “We’ve grown up to­gether, we’ve al­ways been friends, so it’s re­ally cool to win this award with her. She is one of the most amaz­ing play­ers that I’ve ever seen. We play very sim­i­lar, and we play off of each other, so it’s re­ally cool.”

Creighton’s num­bers were rel­a­tively mod­est by com­par­i­son to many other Mid-Shore per­form­ers, but when op­pos­ing coaches for­mu­lated game plans to neu­tral­ize Kent Is­land, lim­it­ing her was al­ways at or near the top of the list.

Creighton fin­ished with 19 goals, 14 as­sists, 45 draw con­trols, 58 ground­balls, five caused turnovers and six take­aways, the hall­marks of an all-around player whose count­ing stats be­lied her true im­pact.

She missed the North Bay­side-clinch­ing con­test ver­sus the War­riors and then the Bay­side cham­pi­onship against Ben­nett, played at Eas­ton High. Her team won both of those games, fur­ther ex­em­pli­fy­ing the pro­gram’s depth and coach­ing prow­ess.

“Those few weeks, peo­ple were put in dif­fer­ent po­si­tions, and we had to adapt,” Creighton said. “Our team adapts re­ally well, and did ex­tremely, ex­tremely well. Of course, I would have loved to be out there, but I was re­ally ex­cited for my team, them get­ting that far.

“The team grows, no mat­ter what,” Creighton added. “The dy­namic was a lit­tle dif­fer­ent (when I re­turned), but re­gard­less of dy­namic, re­gard­less of what we had in our com­fort zone, I think ev­ery­one knew we had to step up.”

Kent Is­land’s as­sis­tant staff of Karen Teng­well, Lind­say Dixon, Erin Mur­nane and Dan Hush­ion did a mar­velous job help­ing Holtzner keep the team’s spir­its in­tact while its All-Amer­i­can mid­fielder was on the mend.

“We wanted to have a theme for the sea­son, and that theme was T.E.A.M — ‘To­gether, ev­ery­one achieves more’, and that meant a lot,” said Holtzner, who guided the Buc­ca­neers to a 14-3 record, the most wins in a sea­son in pro­gram his­tory. “The girls all had their shoot­ing shirts, and it had T.E.A.M. on the back.

“Coach Lind­say and Coach Karen, they em­pha­sized ball move­ment, share the ball, one more, as a team,” Holtzner added. “On de­fense, we did the same thing, my­self and Erin han­dled the de­fense, and we preached, ‘The most im­por­tant per­son on the field de­fen­sively isn’t the per­son guard­ing the ball, it’s the other six play­ers’. If we’re work­ing to­gether as a team, we’re go­ing to have suc­cess.”

The se­lec­tion of Creighton and Bland­ford does lit­tle to di­min­ish the ac­com­plish­ments of the two other fi­nal­ists for Player of the Year: Eas­ton mid­field­ers Lexi McDaniel and El­lie Roser, both se­niors, and both spear­head­ing a bounce-back sea­son for the War­riors.

Eas­ton head coach Robert Smith, a close run­ner-up for the top coach recog­ni­tion, took a pre­co­cious — if not over­achiev­ing — team to the cusp of the 2A East re­gion fi­nal, along the way reel­ing off nine wins in a row en route to an 11-3 mark, in­clud­ing a de­feat of Queen Anne’s that set up a the win­ner-take-all North bat­tle with Kent Is­land.

“I think, be­gin­ning of the year, we knew we had a cou­ple of play­ers that were on the high end, but we weren’t sure we were deep enough to play against Queen Anne’s and Kent Is­land,” Smith said. “We knew El­lie and Lexi can play against any­body, they were def­i­nitely two of the four or five best play­ers in the league.”

“I didn’t know we were go­ing to be able to put it to­gether with the fresh­men and sopho­mores,” Smith added. “El­lie and Lexi were in­stru­men­tal in bring­ing the fresh­men and sopho­mores and get­ting them up to speed, to the level of com­pe­ti­tion.

“We fig­ured out the lineup, and our goalie play was get­ting bet­ter and bet­ter,” Smith con­tin­ued. “The big­gest dif­fer­ence was when we started play­ing a more pres­sure-style de­fense and we gave Emily Grif­fith the free­dom to come out of the cage and chal­lenge. That’s when ev­ery­thing started to click for us.”

The depth, and the bal­ance in out­put by the Buc­ca­neers was ul­ti­mately too much to over­look, and too much for Eas­ton to over­come in two, ul­tra-com­pet­i­tive matchups. Ten dif­fer­ent Kent Is­land play­ers scored at least 20 points last sea­son, the go-to scor­ers of­ten cheer­ing from the bench as the games got out of hand.

But the games with the big­gest im­pli­ca­tions, namely the two wins over Eas­ton by a com­bined three goals, and an 8-7, over­time tri­umph over Fall­ston in the re­gion fi­nal, all had some com­bi­na­tion of Bland­ford, Creighton or a less-her­alded team­mate mak­ing clutch plays.

In the first game against the War­riors, an 11-9 Kent Is­land win, the Buc­ca­neers erased a 9-7 deficit with four straight goals by ju­nior Al­ley Heath, ju­nior Rachel Ruf­fen­nach and

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