C. Milton Wright goalie Sarah Sloop had one game plan in mind going up against Bethesda-Chevy Chase in Monday's state field hockey semifinal. She wanted to be aggressive.
"I knew if I let them get in close, I'd just be target practice for them," said Sloop. "They have nice strong shots. I asked my players to stay in the goal, so I could come out and try to slow down their shots."
In the first half, Sloop was all over the place, running and diving after the ball almost every time it got into the circle. Sweeper Jenna Yasalonis stayed back to mind the cage while Sloop charged the ball.
Bethesda had several wide-open shots after Sloop committed toone side, but every time, the Barons shot wide of the goal.
"We've never played anybody who takes that many chances," said BCC coach Bill Carroll. "What we should have done when she came out was pull theball out and play it on the other side, but we didn't do that. You've got to give her credit. She intimidated us."
Sloop continued to challenge the Bethesda shooters through the second half, but the Barons finally broke through with six minutes left in the game. After Sloop came out to repel one shot, Bethesda's Betsy Allen fired the rebound from the left side. Her attempt went wide, but Lindsey Hauk lungedto shoot the ball behind Sloop for the game's only goal.
"That was a really good cherry-picking shot. She (Hauk) was right on the pole, and I didn't see anyone on her. As I was going down diving for the ball, I could see it was already in," said Sloop, who finished with 10 saves.
The 1-0 victory at Goucher College near Towson sent Bethesda-Chevy Chase (15-0) into the Class 3A title game scheduled for yesterday against South Carroll (15-1). The Barons, last year's state Class 4A champs, were making their fifth appearance in the state final four.
The Mustangs (11-4) were making their first appearance. C. Milton Wright came home disappointed that they lost, but knowing they played well.
"I'm very proud of them," said Mustangs coach Kathy Breymaier. "We held them (BCC) more than I thought we would. If we could have capitalized on some of our offensive plays, we could have been the ones to score."
The Mustangs had their best scoring opportunity early in the first half on their only corner of the game. Jenny Fleming sent the corner pass to Julie Jakum high on the circle. Jakum passed back to Fleming for a clear shot, but the Mustangs were offsides on the play and gave up the ball.
Had they gotten that early goal, it would have shocked the Barons and their goalie, Jennifer Milhollin, who hasn't been scored upon all year. But the Barons, with 14 seniors on their squad, had more strength to their defense than just Milhollin.
Practically every ball the Mustangs hit was quickly stopped. Almost nothing got past the Barons, and that kept the Mustangs off-guard. Once the Barons stopped the ball, they set their crisp passing game in motion. Bethesda had 18 shots in the game.
The Mustangs were used to taking off on the transition, but Bethesda stopped them cold by blocking even the hardest hits.
Along with Sloop and Yasalonis, Amanda Sherman, Abby Walls and Julie Potter played well defensively. Sloop gives them a lot of credit for her being able to play aggressively.
"I feel more sure of myself now, and I like to play aggressively. But with my defense, I feel I can come out of the goal with confidence. I can always count on my defense."
But Sloop, who is also the Mustangs' lacrosse goalie, has been the standout over thelast four games of the season.
The senior preserved two key 1-0 wins to get the Mustangs to the state final four. They beat Fallston and then scored their first-ever victory over Bel Air in the regional final.
"Even though we didn't win states, we're proud of ourselves," said Sloop. "We've been a very close team, and we've been dedicated. It was hard to lose the last game, but I'd rather play a good gamelike that and lose than play and get an easy win."