C. Milton Wright's field hockey team had a little extra incentive behind its first regional championship, which came in a 2-1 win over Bel Air Thursday.
The Mustangs wanted to win the title for Thomas T.Dubel, C. Milton Wright principal who died of heart failure Sept. 25. Dubel had given the Mustangs plenty of encouragement earlier in theseason, so they dedicated their win to him.
"He always said, 'I have a feeling this is going to be the year you beat Bel Air,'" said goalie Sarah Sloop. "The first time we played, we lost, and it was really close, so this is for him."
C. MiltonWright will be the only team representing Harford in the state championships this year. Fallston's three-year string of state titles was broken Thursday, as the Cougars fell to Rising Sun, 1-0.
The Mustangs, who had never beaten Bel Air (12-1-1), advanced to tomorrow's state semifinals at Goucher College in Towson. Seeded fourth, they willplay either Bethesda-Chevy Chase or Walter Johnson at 1 p.m. (Calvert and South Carroll will play in the other semifinal.)
Semifinal winners advance to the title game Saturday morning at 11:30 at GoucherCollege.
For the Mustangs (10-3), the regional title victory is the third in a late-season spurt that began with last Friday's 1-0 winover Fallston. They then beat Dundalk, 1-0, in Tuesday's regional semifinal.
But coach Kathy Breymaier said her team's transformation began after a loss to Joppatowne.
"When they lost to Joppatowne, something clicked," said Breymaier. "It was like their pride was hurt.They're just on fire right now. They didn't want to lose to Bel Air again."
The Mustangs, seeded third in the region, can credit theirvictory to some stubborn defense and a stellar performance by Sloop,especially in the second half.
Sloop had 10 saves in the half and15 in the game. She came out aggressively against the Bel Air forwards and had several lunging efforts.
The Mustangs also had strong defensive efforts from midfielders Julie Jakum and Carrie Supik as well as deep defenders Jenna Yasalonis, Amanda Sherman and Julie Potter.All the scoring came in the first half, and the Mustangs seemed content to play defense the rest of the way.
They fought off a surgingBel Air attack that rarely let down. The top-seeded Bobcats outshot C. Milton Wright, 14-0, in the second half.
After watching the Mustangs lay back on defense for the first six minutes of the half, Breymaier called a timeout.
"As soon as we get ahead, they want to play conservatively," said Breymaier. "In their heads they thought that was all they had to do. I called a timeout and told them to get theirbutts up field and play some offense."
But the Mustangs stayed ondefense the rest of the game. Their only offense came in the first half when both teams got off 10 shots each.
The Mustangs struck quickly, dominating the early minutes of the game. Jenny Nelson put the Mustangs ahead 1-0 with 15:40 to go in the half.
Bel Air showed why it has the most potent offense in the league, quickly striking backon Amy Sullivan's goal with 10:54 left in the half. She scored on a smoking shot off a rebound from Sloop's pads.
The game winner camewith 3:50 left before halftime. Chrissy Cann tapped in a ball that sailed off Jakum's stick.
In Class 1A Region II, Fallston suffered a similar fate as Bel Air. The Cougars (11-2-1) dominated offensively, but they couldn't get the ball in the goal.
Fallston outshot Rising Sun, 32-4, but Rising Sun goalie Ann Hodgson had 19 saves. In thesecond half, the Cougars had 19 shots and 10 corners.
Paula Beaudette scored Rising Sun's goal with five minutes left in the first half. Cougars goalie Tammy Kloiber (three saves) came out to play the ball but it slipped past her and rolled into the cage.
The Cougars played well all over the field with Jeanna Marzullo, Amy French and Kristen Bauersfeld leading the way on defense.