The Washington Post

Vikings’ quest for state title hits wall



owings mills, md. — A frustrated Erin Demek slowly picked herself up from the turf after being sandwiched by a pair of checks, another crippling body blow to the Mount Hebron leading scorer as the minutes wore on Thursday night in the Maryland 3A title game at Mustang Stadium.

When the Vikings and Demek managed to find a sliver of space in the heart of Westminste­r’s pesky defense, Owls goalkeeper Sara Tyssowski smothered the opportunit­ies with her stick and sometimes misdirecte­d shots with her body. And when the Vikings finally gained some traction, it was too late.

Making its first state title appearance in 11 years, Mount Hebron stammered through a long first-half scoring drought and couldn’t crack Tyssowski (13 saves), falling short to Westminste­r, 9-5.

“I keep telling the girls we have so much to be proud of. Mount Hebron hasn’t been here since [2007]. Our foot’s in the door now,” Vikings Coach Lindsay Menton said. “We got a game plan together, we made some adjustment­s at halftime, but unfortunat­ely today it was too little too late.”

An 18-minute scoring drought doomed the Vikings (13-6) midway through the first half, coming after Demek connected on a game-tying strike while tumbling to the turf. The Owls then reeled off four straight goals and got some big saves from Tyssowski to fuel an 8-3 lead at the break.

“I think when she made those big saves early, it kind of got into our heads a bit,” Demek said. “She’s a very good goalkeeper. Props to her.”

Mount Hebron appeared as if it would exploit crevices in the Westminste­r defense, firing the game’s opening salvo just 64 seconds into regulation when Ashley Unkenholz boxed out her defender and cleaned up a rebound at the doorstep. But that wasn’t the case.

Owls sophomore attack Chloe Sedlar answered 44 seconds later, and leading scorer Anna Ruby pushed Westminste­r ahead with a rip from straightaw­ay just 27 seconds after that. Demek soon tied it up, but then came the scoring drought, snowballin­g into a fivegoal deficit and a hole too large to climb out of.

In the end, the Vikings managed to fix smiles through the hurt while posing for one last photo.

Since the first day of the offseason last spring — the day after losing in overtime to rival Centennial in the first round of the playoffs — those who were returning declared 2018 would be different. And it was. The Vikings secured their first region title since 2012. But the goal of a state championsh­ip had been set by the team, in a players-only meeting in the Vikings’ gymnasium, where 15 state title banners were displayed for perspectiv­e.

Luckily for Menton, 16 of her 25 players are set to return, including the top five attackers and goalie Georgia Ryan.

“This is not the last time the states are going to see us,” Menton said. “It’s not a matter of if; it’s a matter of when. . . . We’ll be back.”

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