Glenelg High School's field hockey team used the wind and a coach's whim at Centennial to earn a thrilling come-from-behind, 2-1 victory Friday and a piece of the county championship.
The Gladiators, working with an advantageous wind at their backs, erased a 1-0 halftime deficit midway through the second half on a goal by Beth Terry, then won it on reserve forward Jennifer Anderson's goal with 2:40 left in the game.
Glenelg surrendered a goal by Anna Lee just 1 minute, 25 seconds into the game, then shut the Eagles down to gain a co-county championship with the Eagles. Centennial, which had its eight-game winning streak snapped, suffered its first league defeat of the year.
Each team wound up the regular season with an overall record of 9-3, 6-1 against the county. Each is also headed for the regional playoffs. Glenelg earned the second seed in Class 2A Region I and will play host to an undetermined opponent Tuesday at 3:30. Centennial's seeding in the Class 3A Region I playoffs had yet to be determined by The Howard County Sun's deadline.
"It's not like we won (the county title). In our mind someone else had to do our work for us. That's not a good feeling," said Centennial coach Gail Purcell, referring to Oakland Mills' 1-0 upset of Glenelg two weeks ago that made the share of the league title possible.
"This was a tough one to lose," she added. "Glenelg deserved it. They didn't concede."
On the contrary, the Gladiators, who struggled tentatively against a stiff wind in the first half, charged back after intermission to outshoot the Eagles, 17-14, including 12-5 in the second half.
The Gladiators scored the game-winner after coach Ginger Kincaid made an admittedly haphazard substitution choice. Late in the second half, forward Kate Frederick signaled to Kincaid that she had to come out of the game with leg cramps.
"I looked down the bench and just said 'eenie, meenie, miney, mo' before picking Jen Anderson," said Kincaid. Several minutes later Anderson scored off an unsettled situation in front of the Centennial cage.
"This is just one of those days when things go right," Kincaid said.
It was also a well-played, occasionally rough-and-tumble affair that featured fast breaks and great defense and dodging by both sides. It also featured excellent goalkeeping. Centennial goalie Meghan Carr nearly won the game herself with a superb 14-save performance. Heather Davis countered with 12 saves for Glenelg.
"Gail and I go back a long way in hockey and lacrosse, and when our teams go against each other, it's always a good clean hockey game," Kincaid said. "And it always comes down to a big play.
"The wind was such a factor in the first half," she added. "We looked like we were moving in slow motion on some of our penalty corners. I knew if we just hung in there in the first half, we'd come back strong after halftime when the wind was with us."
Besides sending the Gladiators into the playoffs on an upbeat note, the victory also helped soothe their toughest loss of the season to Oakland Mills. That day, the Gladiators suffered a 1-0 setback despite a mind-boggling 40 penalty corner chances, including 24 in the first half.
Friday, they were 0-for-12 on penalty corners, but made the best of enough transition opportunities.
"We felt like we beat ourselves that day," Kincaid said. "We're much better in transition anyway."