The opponent wasn't quite who Kerith Spicknall figured, but that suited the Old Mill junior just fine.
Spicknall assumed top-seeded Annapolis would oppose the Patriots in yesterday's Class 4A Region III field hockey final. But that was before the Panthers were upset by No. 4 La Plata, 1-0, Tuesday, giving second-seed Old Mill the home-field advantage in the final.
"I was actually happy about that," she admitted, "because we might have been a little overconfident against Annapolis since we beat them, 3-1, earlier this year."
Armed with just the right amount of confidence against La Plata, the Patriots went out and won themselves a regional championship.
Old Mill did all the scoring in the second half and clinched its first-ever berth in the 4A state playoffs with a 2-0 victory over the Warriors of Charles County.
The Patriots begin their quest for a state title at 1 p.m. Monday at Goucher College.
Junior Maryte Uleckas scored just 50 seconds into the second half on a scramble in front of the net, the only goal Old Mill would need.
"I just tried to get a stick on it and get a shot off," said Uleckas, who netted the Patriots' first goal in a 2-1 overtime win against Arundel in Tuesday's regional semifinals.
With the Patriots dominating the second half, senior Carrie Fretz added an insurance goal at 17:45 off a long crossing pass from junior Aimee Buschman.
Old Mill went 6-7 last year, with one of those losses coming against Severna Park in the regional semifinals. The Patriots
were denied their first postseason victory in school history, but Coach Jo Funk knew there would be another opportunity.
"I expected them to go farther this year," said Funk, in her second season.
"I only lost two seniors, and I have 10 this year. And we have a strong JV program."
Both teams brought 7-5-1 records into yesterday's game, and
their play in the first half was every bit as even.
The closest eitherside came to scoring in the first half was in the final 10 seconds, when Old Mill senior keeper Kim Greenlee whiffed on an attempted kicksave, leaving the Warriors' Marcie Saylor with an open net.
But the La Plata junior's hurried shot skipped across the goal mouth and wide to the left.
"I said at halftime that things must be going ourway when they should have scored and didn't. Something must be goingright for us," Funk said.
The second half belonged to the Patriots, who finished with an 18-8 advantage in shots.
A kick save from Warriors keeper Shelly Mitchell and errant shots from Uleckas and Suzanne Martin preceded Fretz's goal.
Afterward, Funk credited assistant coach Denise Hermann, a former college All-American, for "teaching me a lot, and for letting the players know that they can be as goodas the Severna Parks and the Broadnecks, if they just believe."
As La Plata can attest, the Patriots believe.